No more camping on Lake Pangong is allowed after September 15th. And that is not because the camp sites will end the season; but because they were asked to remove their buildings permanently. The High Court asked the Leh administration to remove all structures around Pangong Tso. Even the Indian army was asked to move its structures around the lake to some other area.
This step was taken to avoid the degradation of the lake, taking well-planned, sustainable and scientific measures. After the recent increase in tourism in Ladakh, several camps, restaurants and huts have emerged on the banks of Pangong. Most of these structures are illegal and were created without permission. Many tourists and many camps have resulted in an increase in all types of effluents and contaminants; what poses a serious threat to the lake’s very existence; as well as the wildlife around. Measures are also being taken to seal all wells and hand pumps; who are operating illegally and without permission.
What does this mean for you as a tourist? This means that you will have to choose from one of the following.
- Take a day trip to Pangong. Start early from Leh at 5 am, arrive in Pangong, spend some time and return at night.
- Look for a place to stay in the villages of Spangmik, Man or Merak, if you want to be close to the lake. However, considering the fact that there are only small villages and tourists numbering in the thousands, you are unlikely to find a place to stay overnight.
- If you are okay with getting away from Pangong a bit, look for a place to stay in Durbuk or Tangste. Both villages are about 30 to 40 kilometers from the lake.
Is it justified?
What are my thoughts on that decision? I think that as a tourist who wants to spend a night in Pangong, I will be disappointed. Overall, however, I think it was a very necessary step. Ladakh as a whole is a very fragile region and has recently been talking about increasing levels of pollution and waste. About a decade ago, when I was on the banks of the Pangong River, there was absolutely no one else when it came to it. It was just me and my friend there, two people alone at the lake; worried about where to go at night.
However, a lot has changed. After gaining popularity in recent years, Pangong practically has a “Kumbh ka Mela” on its banks during the tourist season. Many of these people are irresponsible tourists throwing garbage, water bottles, packages of chips, disposable dishes into the lake. I even noticed a bunch of drunk guys running away on the lake during one of my trips. They took on a challenge among themselves about who can throw empty beer bottles at what distance from the lake. At that speed, I think it would take just another 5 to 10 years before Pangong loses its beauty; and it becomes a body of water contaminated with shit floating in it; as well as many other lakes destroyed in our country.
No more camping in Pangong
A similar step was taken a few years ago, when authorities forbade camping in Chandratal, another beautiful lake in the Spiti valley. I think that, as citizens of the country, it is our responsibility to preserve the natural beauty that surrounds us. However, we ended up doing the exact opposite of that. Many of these tourist places in our country have already been destroyed; and the authorities are now taking steps to save others, like the Rohtang Pass. If you consider this angle, I think the ban on camping on Lake Pangong can be considered a wise move. What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments section below.
The camp sites are still operational in Pangong. The law was passed, but not followed by residents. The authorities also took no action. Below are some images shared by Kalyan Samaddar, who recently traveled to Ladakh. In his words,
“There are many huts and tents. The rates are extremely fluctuating. If you book in advance from Leh, it may be around 1500-2000. If you get to Pongong early; and book the house on site, then you can reach the range of 700-1000. If you are a little late to arrive in Pongong and most of the houses have been filled, the rate can quickly rise to the range of 2000 to 3000!
We were moderately late and the first cottage asked for 1300! I said my foot! for this crap you want me to pay so much for? Before moving to another place, another group broke the hut in front of me. I went to another one and the fee was absurd… I finally had to pay 2000 !!! Just consolation, this year 2000 included dinner and breakfast.