Managing garbage in the Himalayas


One’s mind immediately conjures up a vision of the Himalayas, a magnificent mountain range with towering peaks, glacial lakes, and lush meadows covered with evergreen trees. The Himalayan region is a popular destination for travelers and mountaineers alike. It spans six different countries with a total area of 595,000 square kilometers. Much of the economy depends on visitors. It is a popular destination for serious hikers and mountaineers, and it also provides relief for domestic tourists from the region’s sweltering summers.




The sustainable management of solid waste is becoming an increasingly pressing issue as urbanization and tourism in the Himalayas continue to expand. A major public health and environmental pollution issue is the prevalence of litter along trails in popular tourist destinations and the open dumping of rubbish in valleys and streams. garbage collection and safe disposal are more difficult in mountainous areas than in metropolitan lowlands due to issues such as the region’s harsh environment, isolation, a lack of suitable land for garbage treatment and disposal, and a lack of robust infrastructure.


Waste collection and safe disposal are more difficult in the mountain landscape than in the urban lowlands due to reasons such as harsh temperature, isolation, restricted land availability for waste treatment and disposal, and comparatively weak infrastructure. 

There is also a significant information gap on the amount and composition of garbage produced in the numerous communities dotted across the Himalayan landscape. Solid waste management (SWM) in the Himalayas calls for a customized strategy due to the region’s unusual geography and climate, which affects not only urban hill towns but also protected regions and high-altitude and remote communities on trekking routes.  To address this information gap and better understand the state of SWM in the Himalayan alpine which also covers many regions of India(Shimla, Hatu peak ), Nepal, and Pakistan, the World Bank and the Korean Green Growth Trust Fund (KGGTF) recently completed a regional study. To help countries in the Himalayan region implement a landscape management strategy that is both practicable on a national and regional scale, the report also presents technical advice.


Primary Results


Data obtained in the mountainous regions of the three countries revealed, among other things:


There is a wide range in MSW production in mountain communities due to factors including population density, accessibility, the number of visitors, and average household income.

Waste Management System Contents: Mixed garbage from places like homes, grocery stores, and hotels contains a sizeable amount of biodegradable materials. Mixed garbage in popular destinations typically consists primarily of plastic.

  • Recycling and composting: Door-to-door garbage collection is unavailable to most homes because of the region’s challenging topography, isolation, and harsh climate.  India and Pakistan, with the exception of Nepal, segregate very little MSW.
  • Disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW): Even if collection services are provided in some areas, people often still burn trash in the open or dump it in drains, ravines, valleys, streams, or rivers.
  • Paying customers: If trash management services are of a high enough quality, most houses will pay for them.
  • The general public has a dim view of waste management, despite its centrality to environmental health, and a lack of knowledge about the systems now in use.
  • Pakistan’s highest peak, Nanga Parbat in Gilgit-Baltistan. Image credit: Rahat Jabeen
  • Future Steps


Human health and the health of ecosystems are both affected by problems with SWM. Meanwhile, they have a huge effect on the tourism industry in mountain regions. SWM is especially impacted by tourism in mountainous areas. Open dumping and filthy landfill sites damage beautiful mountain scenery and can cause land degradation, air pollution, and the instability of mountain slopes due to improper waste management.  Most of the trash dumped into waterways eventually ends up in the seas and oceans.


Most of the trash dumped into waterways eventually ends up in the seas and oceans.

In order to enhance SWM services in the hilly regions of India, Nepal, and Pakistan, the study recommends a methodical and staged strategy. In light of the fact that many SWM-related tasks are performed in tandem, a phased approach to the work is recommended. All of the moving parts in the waste management cycle—institutional capacity, policy formulation and enforcement, influencing the behaviors of waste producers, and developing technologies—need to be managed by the government and other partners.


Better data collection is required to identify and address the challenges unique to SWM in mountainous regions. In order to better understand how mountain areas might enhance SWM and recover their landscapes, a number of examples and excellent practices have been collected and synthesized. Among the report’s 24 case studies is one on how the Republic of Korea established an ambitious waste management hierarchy and converted a former dump site on Nanjido Island into an eco-restoration park through an integrated legislative, policy, and executive response. The World Bank’s Sustainable Solid Waste Management (SWM) program will continue to work with client countries through webinars and other knowledge-sharing platforms to reimagine waste collection and disposal procedures in light of the unique difficulties presented by mountainous terrain.


Leave a Comment