In the geography book for 7th grade, the explanation of “what is ecotourism” is taught in detail.
While “ecotourism” may be a recent buzzword, India has long embodied the principles of sustainable living and traveling without the need for fancy terminology.
Rooted in traditional values that revere and worship nature, India’s connection to Mother Earth and its elements like rivers and mountains has endured. When discussions turn to the profound act of worship, Uttarakhand stands out as the foremost destination for tourists seeking to experience India’s authentic devotion to the environment.
Over the past decade (2006–17), Uttarakhand tourism places experienced robust tourism growth, contributing over 51% to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).
Tourists from all over the world visit Uttrakhand for its natural beauty, spiritual retreats and fascinating treks to popular spots like Har Ki Dun Trek, Kalindi Khal Pass Trek, Roopkund Trek and many more.
Harkidun Protection & Mountaineering Association (HPMA)
With tourists visiting the state comes the tourism industry of Uttarakhand and the Harkidun Protection & Mountaineering Association (HPMA) which has become a favorite of many when it comes to visiting Uttarakhand tourism places.
Founded in 1995 by Mr. Bhagat Singh Rawat, a local villager from Saur (Sankri) in Uttarkashi, HPMA has not only become India’s foremost trekking association but has also emerged as a force for positive change in the region.
Today with mad4india, Get ready for a heartwarming tale of an uncle-nephew duo who are turning their village into a bustling tourist hotspot. This story is not just about the scenery; it’s about community spirit, sustainable tourism, and a dash of rebellion against the migration norm!
Story Of A Kid Who Loved Guests
Now, with the advancement of technology, it has become very easy for anyone to reach these remote and challenging locations. But could you imagine attempting to navigate the trails to the Har Ki Dun trek back in the 80s? It was close to impossible for anyone to travel to the snow-covered highlands of Har Ki Dun during a time when phones and Google Maps were not a thing as traveling to a foreign land was not an everyday task.
Back then, locals were also not inclined to become tourist guides for strangers and earn some pennies, unlike today. However, in the quiet mountains of Har Ki Dun, a boy of almost 6 -7 years used to help tourists visiting that area find the way to the Har Ki Dun treks. It was during one such day that a traveler handed him some money for his help.
The amount of money he received wasn’t substantial, but for a school-going kid, any amount is significant. It was the first payment for Bhagat Singh as a tourist helper. Bhagat Singh began to enjoy the task of helping tourists find their way up the Har Ki Dun trek and gradually developed a taste for making money through it.
Bhagat Rawat, a school goer by day and a secret tour guide by afternoon, was showing tourists the hidden wonders of his hometown. As he grew up, he saw a significant change in the way tourism developed in his area and gradually found himself in the middle of the tourism industry in Uttarakhand. By the time Bhagat Singh grew up, he was already working in tourist care Uttarakhand.
The Birth of HPMA:
Mr. Bhagat Singh Rawat’s love for the mountains and nature led him to pursue his dream of exploring the Himalayas. Trained at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering College (NIM), he embarked on numerous unexplored treks and high-altitude expeditions and discovered the beauty hidden in the folds of Uttarakhand. In 1995, fueled by his passion for trekking, he became a full-time tourist helper, initially facing the challenges of limited awareness and communication methods at the time.
He saw potential in his nephew Chain Singh and nudged him towards a tourism career. Chain Singh aced his Tourism degree and a mountaineering course, marking the birth of a game-changing duo!
In 2002, Bhagat and Chain Singh joined forces to create the Har Ki Dun Protection and Mountaineering Association. The duo in no time collected 250 to 300 adventure junkies from Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir rallying together for epic mountain escapades and they made a Himalayan Avengers squad, but cooler!
Har Ki Dun Protection and Mountaineering Association
Har Ki Dun Protection and Mountaineering Association didn’t just bring in tourists; they brought in the idea of new world tourism to the state. HPMA explained to the people of his homeland what is ecotourism, and shared the idea of homestay in Uttarakhand in detail. They provided employment opportunities for each home by turning them into homestays.
Thanks to the Har Ki Dun Protection and Mountaineering Association, the villagers of the mountains aren’t packing their bags for the city lights anymore. With the zeal of Bhagat Singh and the innovative approach of his nephew, the families of the area started to flourish at their roots.
Bhagat Rawat and Chain Singh Rawat are not just preserving Uttarakhand’s culture and providing tourists with a great homestay in Uttarakhand; they’re building a new culture of tourist care in Uttarakhand. The Har Ki Dun Protection and Mountaineering Association is not just an association; it’s a community of adventure enthusiasts rewriting the rules for the Har Ki Dun trek.
HPMA’s Social Works:
Beyond har ki dun trekking, this Uncle-Nephew duo with HPMA has been committed to social and environmental causes. The association has undertaken various initiatives to uplift the communities and preserve the pristine beauty of the Himalayas.
- Removing Illiteracy:
- HPMA initiated the “Har ki Dun Public School” eight years ago, providing free education to 180 children from grade 1 to 8.
- The school offers not just education but also essential supplies like bags, uniforms and books for those who cannot afford them.
- Providing Livelihood:
- HPMA has created job opportunities for villagers by introducing the idea of homestay in Uttarakhand, improving tourist inflow for the har ki dun treks leading to a lot of associated activities for the natives to earn money from.
- The initiative has not only reduced unemployment but also provided a source of income, with workers earning daily wages along with accommodation and food.
- Awareness Programs:
- HPMA conducts awareness programs on disaster management, conservation of natural resources, tourist care Uttarakhand and health issues.
- Villagers actively participate in cleanliness campaigns, cleaning trails, and disposing of waste responsibly.
- Without government assistance, HPMA donates clothes and distributes medicines to those in need.
- Regular meetings and camps are organized to provide essential items like books and notebooks to children.
HPMA’s Evolution and Objectives:
Over the last 29 years, HPMA has evolved from a risky venture into a trailblazer in adventure tourism in Uttrakhand. The association operates with the following objectives:
- Promoting Sustainable Tourism:
- HPMA is dedicated to promoting Ecotourism in Uttarakhand.
- Facilitating tourist services in Uttarakhand:
- The association provides a range of services to tourists, including trekking equipment, food, transport, accommodation, and guides, uplifting the tourist care of Uttarakhand.
- Search and Rescue Operations:
- HPMA offers emergency voluntary services through search and rescue operations, helping tourists overcome adverse climatic conditions.
- Exploring New Routes:
- HPMA actively explores and popularizes new trekking routes and tourist destinations.
- Environmental Conservation:
- The association is committed to managing tourist activities free from environmental pollution, aligning with the Swachh Bharat mission promoting Ecotourism in Uttarakhand.
New Trails, New Explorations:
HPMA’s influence extends to the discovery and popularization of many renowned treks in India, including Har Ki Dun-Borasu Pass, Rupin Pass, Bali Pass, Kedar Kantha Trek, Changsheel Trek, Baraadsar Lake Trek, Nalgan Pass Trek, and Roopkund
The remarkable journey of HPMA showcases the power of passion and commitment to create positive change and ecotourism in Uttarakhand. The nephew-uncle duo has not only transformed Uttarakhand into a hub for sustainable tourism but has also become a beacon of hope for local communities. HPMA’s dedication to environmental preservation, community development, and adventure tourism serves as an inspiring model for others looking to make a lasting impact on the world.
Feature Image – HPMA
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