The Annapurna range from the lowlands towards the end of the Best if Annapurna Dhaulagiri trek | Brad Atwal
Home to the Himalaya's most iconic and accessible hiking trails, Nepal contains eight of the world’s highest mountains and is the ultimate destination for mountain lovers. Ever since opening its borders in the 1950s, Nepal has been a popular destination for trekkers from around the world. With so much to offer, from exploring the rugged trails of Everest, the Annapurna region and beyond, Nepal's status as a leading adventure playground is no surprise.
The growth of tourism has had a positive economic impact on Nepal, particularly in the rural mountainous areas that heavily rely on trekkers to supplement their farming subsistence income. Yet, while tourism has brought many benefits, it has also been a contributing factor to deforestation of some of the countries prime trekking regions, namely the Everest and Annapurna areas.
Wood Burning in Nepal
In recent times, Nepal has lost more than 70% of its forest. An estimated 80% of Nepali locals rely on wood burning as their primary source for heating and cooking. Many trekking companies and mountain tea houses are contributing to the problem by burning wood to meet their accommodation, food and heating needs.
In fact, a typical trekking lodge can burn up to 100 kg of wood per day to provide heating and cooking facilities for trekkers - even more when trekkers request slow-cooked meals and hot showers. In addition to using wood for cooking and heating, it is also used to build new lodges to house an increasing number of trekkers each year.
Deforestation occurs as a result of cutting down trees and forests, and in highly mountainous areas this increases the likelihood of environmental disasters such as landslides, particularly around the monsoon season each year between June and August.
This is because plant and tree roots provide reinforcement on the slopes and help to remove groundwater in the soil. As rainwater is not properly absorbed into the earth, it also leads to an increased likelihood of floods in the lowlands of Nepal. Alongside landslide and flooding, deforestation can affect the natural habitat of local wildlife and endanger fragile species by reducing or eliminating loss of food stock.
How can you reduce your footprint?
When planning your trip to Nepal, make a decision to travel with a responsible travel company and reduce your environmental footprint. Choose a company that uses alternatives to burning wood for heating, cooking and accommodation and you can be confident your impact on the environment and the Himalayas is a positive and responsible one!
Alternatives to Wood Burning in Nepal
There are alternatives to using wood burning in Nepal for heating and cooking. For example at World Expeditions we use fully sustainable yak dung to heat the dining rooms at our private permanent eco campsites in the Everest and Annapurna regions. As well as using yak dung for heating, the Nepali kitchen crew use kerosene or gas to cook meals for the entire group.
Yes you heard it right, yak dung! For centuries in the Everest region, yak dung has been a traditional means of fuel. Burning yak dung is an efficient fuel source that not only alleviates the pressure on wood resources, it provides less environmental pollution and a safe disposal method of animal dung.
The local communities where our private eco campsites are situated collect the dung and then dry it out in the sun and store it. The yak dung briquettes are then burned cleanly without producing an odour in our campsite dining rooms that have a chimney stove installed with ventilating pipes to a flue. By purchasing the dried dung from the community, we are contributing to the local economy.
Permanent Eco Campsites
Preventing deforestation is integral to our responsible travel program in Nepal and central to this strategy is our network of permanent eco campsites. These have a dual advantage of avoiding the use of wood in their construction and of employing more local people than lodge-based treks. There is also a rent charge paid to the locals for using the land.
At World Expeditions, we pride ourselves on sustainable tourism and actively work to prevent further deforestation in Nepal. We do not burn wood at our eco-campsites in Nepal, so when you travel with us you can rest assured that you are travelling in a responsible and environmentally friendly way.