That Shimla is reeling from one of the worst water crises in years is not news. Every media channel has been abuzz with the news. The situation is so bad that Shimla locals have been requesting tourists to stay away from the beloved hill-station till the situation is brought under control. The situation is not unlike Cape Town in South Africa which has been in the news for a similar water crises. The issue in Cape Town is so severe that rumours have it that the tourist hub might soon be declared the first completely “dry” city in the world. Call it global warming, ineffective use and wastage of available resources or blame the authorities for bad management – the harsh truth cannot be ignored.
However, sitting in our cosy homes, the reality might seem to be very far for us. But as a traveller and a tourist, it is our responsibility to care and show concern. We need to bear in mind that as a tourist, we often eat away heavily into a region’s resources. For many of the privileged explorers, what they often don’t realise is that they are creating more issues for the locals. Yes, they are contributing to the economy and assisting by giving the locals jobs but at the cost of natural resources that cannot be replaced. Also, hotel chains or homestays are forced to match the level of comforts the travellers are used to or forgo business.
An example of the same is really simple. When you are travelling abroad, if you’re used to having water and electricity 24×7 at your home, you tend to expect the same without putting much thought into it. In fact, you might even enjoy the long hot water baths drawn to ease the soreness after a long day of travel. What you don’t realise is that the amount of water you draw for one bath might last an entire family for a week – in the more impoverished sections of society in the region – or perhaps the entire region is the situation is dire (like in Shimla). Also, if the place you visit is suffering from power cuts, hotels often have generators installed to ensure that the guests face no discomfort. It is often a loss-loss situation for the locals, as the resources take a backseat over profits.
It’s important as a tourist and a traveller to care about the places you’re visiting and to research them well in advance. If you realise there is any form of conflict – be it political, social, environmental, either try and understand it completely and behave in a manner appropriate to the place or skip the place completely. As tourists more than us ticking off cities or countries off our list or vying to reach a large number of followers on social media, it is more important that we care about the planet that we are so keen on exploring. Or one day there might just not be anything left to explore and flaunt on our Insta pages. Try being an emphatic explorer rather than an excited one and the world will be in the right hands!