It was 2017 when I undertook a hitchhiking trip for 101-days in Spiti Valley. I was completely unaware of the upcoming challenges, where I would be staying, and how I would be managing in a remote valley. All I knew was that I wanted to do it. Amidst the captivating beauty of the snow-capped mountains, it was indeed an adventure of a lifetime and I’ve shared it in detail in my earlier blog which you can read here.
While in Kaza, I happened to meet Ishita Khanna, We bonded over many intellectual discussions. Also, one important thing about Ishita, she founded the Spiti Ecosphere, an NGO that promotes sustainable development and responsible travel, with an aim to keep the beauty of the valley intact.
Later one random noon while having our lunch at Taste of Spiti, a conversation spared around the changing climate which led us to create a very well known art installation almost traveller by the name ‘I LOVE SPITI’.
Yes, definitely climate change! We had a detailed discussion on this underrated topic and that’s when we realized that we must carry out some campaign on climate change in Spiti valley. Plastic is a menace everywhere! But what happens when one of the most beautiful valleys in the world is polluted with plastic?
Single-Use Plastic: A MENACE
It is one of the remotest areas, which is situated far from the industrial town & that is why being neglected. Being a tourist spot, the local shops and businesses thrive on tourism, and because of tourist demands popular beverages packed in plastic bottles & wrappers are sold.
The nearest recycling facility for Spiti Valley being 490KM away in Chandigarh makes it almost impossible for these plastic bottles and wrappers to make it to them and hence they end up in landfill and eventually in water bodies along with the melting snow costing the environment heavily.
To tackle this grave issue, we came up with the idea to create an art installation in the shape of – I Heart Spiti to give out a message to the travellers that if you love Spiti, do not litter plastic around.
I LOVE SPITI: 2017 ART INSTALLATION
We were joined on this journey by three humble souls, Saurabh Narang, a genius photographer, Shivya Nath, who is a sustainable traveller, and Michael Heckenberg, a fond lover of Spiti valley from Australia. All of us joined hands and set out on this sustainable journey with utmost excitement.
We visited the dumping ground which was full of unattended plastic bottles, we used those bottles to create an art installation. We faced obstacles but as a team, we managed to raise the installation using 1200 plastic bottles in a span of 15 days and named it: I LOVE SPITI. Many volunteers including local vendors, Spiti Ecosphere travel guides, foreign volunteers helped us to raise this installation. Since then, many tourists have been visiting the spot and clicking their pictures to spread the word about responsible tourism and sustainable development.
WATER-FILTER INSTALLATION & AWARENESS:
We also got LifeStraw on board, a company that makes water-filtering bottles and bought big containers from them and installed it in a few locations so that people could refill their water bottles through this filter instead of buying plastic water bottles. We gathered the nearby hoteliers and travel companies and held a meeting with them and explained to them the problem of single-use plastic and how it is damaging the valley and how we can tackle this issue.
SPITI VALLEY 2019 AGAIN AT IT:
Spiti being close to my heart, I visited there again in 2019 and at an individual level, I spent 15 days in the valley and ended up picking around 2000 plastic bottles and later sent all these bottles to Chandigarh, to a plastic recycling facility.
Now it’s a well-tested project, where we invite volunteers at Spiti Ecosphere to come and participate to help us make Spiti Single-Use Plastic Free.
CONTINUING THE JOURNEY NON-STOP:
Taking inspiration from this project and continuing my hustle to save the world from itself. I carried out a beach cleaning drive in Calicut and raised an art-installation with the plastic bottles which are the first of its kind. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to miss it. Read here about my Calicut Project 2019.
I hope you enjoyed reading about I LOVE SPITI & it inspired you to quit plastic and stop the global rising temperature. I’ll see you in the next article till then mind your carbon footprints.
This is Aakash Ranison Signing off,
Stay Inside, Stay Safe.