We must Save the mountain from chemical graffiti: Kashmiri climbing duo clean Tatakooti and leave a message for adventure enthusiasts | News

Kashmiri climbing duo namely Ejaz Ahmed and Tanveer Ahad recently took it upon themselves to remove graffiti and artificial colours from the Peak Tatakooti (4,760m) in Jammu and Kashmir. They used canned thinner (chemical colour remover) to remove slogans and marks, logos that had been painted on boulders and on the top of the mountain by another party.
The video of their efforts went viral, bringing attention to the issue of graffiti on mountains and sparking discussion about the importance of preserving natural beauty. While many people welcomed and thanked Ejaz and Tanveer for their efforts, questions were raised about who had painted the graffiti in the first place and why. Dream Wanderlust reached out to concerned parties to investigate the matter.

Ejaz emphasized that he was not targeting the individuals responsible for the graffiti, but rather urging everyone to stop these acts of defacing beautiful peaks in Kashmir Valley. He stressed that climbers should enjoy their expeditions without leaving any negative impact on the mountains.
“I want to make it clear that I am not singling out any individual responsible for the graffiti on these beautiful peaks in Kashmir Valley. It is important that we put an end to these actions of defacing or painting on the mountains. Climbers should be able to enjoy their expeditions without leaving any trace on the mountains. Such behaviour not only goes against ethical standards but also harms the natural beauty of the mountains. We strongly oppose these actions.” “I attempted to record a video on Tatakooti to spread a message about true climbers being ethical and preserving the natural state of the mountains. It is important to be truthful about this. Let us work together to protect the mountains and the Earth.”

Harish Kapadia, celebrated a veteran Indian explorer and former editor emeritus of the Himalayan Journal, has condemned this act and said, “Individuals often put-up photos and banners, but marking on mountains and boulders permanently should be avoided. Climbers should not engage in this behaviour.”

Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) issues permits for climbing expeditions and enforces regulations to minimize environmental impact. Regrettably, the members of the expedition team do not consistently comply with it.

Amit Chowdhuri, Member, Executive Board, UIAA and member of IMF has said “I have observed a similar occurrence in Himachal Pradesh previously. It is unclear whether or not ethical concerns are presently being included in rock climbing courses. I used to advocate for the principle, “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints,” when in the mountains. I find it disheartening that individuals are not adhering to this principle. The IMF has established guidelines and recommendations for expedition groups, yet it is regrettable that this behaviour persists due to a lack of awareness and appreciation for nature”.

Zeeshan Mushtaq, another climber from Kashmir, expressed sadness at the fact that adventure enthusiasts were responsible for the graffiti and called for more awareness and education on the issue. “It is disheartening to witness graffiti created by adventure enthusiasts on mountains, as I have seen such vandalism on other mountains as well. If someone wishes to leave their mark on a mountain, it should be done in an environmentally-friendly manner. A designated box could be installed on the mountain where individuals can leave notes or items. Chemical paintings on mountains are repulsive, and we are striving to raise awareness within the community. The relevant authorities must investigate this issue.”

Anindya Mukherjee, an explorer and climber from Bengal (who happened to reach the summit of Tatakuti when Ejaz and Tanveer were cleaning the mess on 12 September 2023 and recorded this video), echoed these sentiments and called on the climbing community and authorities to take action to save mountains from such hooligans. It is important for us all to remember that the natural beauty of our planet is fragile and must be protected. “We need to take immediate action to stop this. There have been reports of similar acts in the Garhwal Himalayas. The climbing community and authorities must work together to protect the mountains from these hooligans.”

Mahmood Shah, the leader of the JK Mountain and Hiking Club, has confirmed that paintings are often displayed along the roadsides of J&K, which is a common practice in the valley. However, it is important to ensure that the mountains remain free of any chemicals that may harm their natural beauty.

A recent report from Indian Express reveals that the Patanjali Group in Haridwar has plans to erect several statues at high altitudes in Harshil, exceeding 17000 feet. However, this action would be in violation of the Forest Act. According to the report, the Uttarakhand Forest Department is opposing the installation of statues, including those of Dhanvantri and others on the mountain.

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