As the summer tourist season begins, record numbers of travelers will make their way to remote destinations across the plateau. This increased tourism also brings an increased burden to the fragile, sparsely-populated environment. The Lhasa-based Tibet tour agency Explore Tibet is committed to sustainable travel practices, and the agency has issued a set of guidelines for Tibet trekking.
- Prepare ahead of time for trash removal and disposal. Waste disposal facilities and garbage collection in Tibet are limited. Travelers should minimize the amount of packaging they bring with them, and plan to carry all rubbish back to a disposal site. For the ambitious, this courtesy can be extended to collecting garbage left by other less considerate trekkers.
- Don’t plan for campfires. Although very cold at high altitudes, wood resources in Tibet are scarce. Deforestation is a pervasive environmental problem. Wear appropriate clothing and bring stoves for cooking.
- Keep human waste away from water sources, and sacred places like shrines.
- As with all wilderness camping, discourage wildlife by cleaning up food waste. Use biodegradable soap to clean dishes, and keep all cleaning and hygiene products away from water sources.
- Carry potable water or treat all water from natural sources before drinking. Even the remotest lakes and rivers serve as watering holes for nomadic herds, and could be contaminated with animal feces.
- This probably goes without saying, but don’t poach wildlife. Don’t buy exotic furs or animal parts from markets or merchants. Trade in endangered wildlife is illegal, and it’s always best to stay on the right side of Chinese law.
- Choose a Tibetan-run Tibet travel agency that has a record of sustainable practice. Ask questions ahead of time to ascertain the agency’s commitment to responsible trekking. It’s important to support local businesses that are dedicated to the preservation of the Tibetan landscape and way-of-life.