John Mock & Kimberley O'Neil
Appendix A - Environmental Codes of Conduct
Tourism involves three sectors: the tourists, the host communities, and the tourism industry. Sector-specific environmental Codes of Conduct usually include the issues outlined below.
A.1.0. Tourist Codes
Environmental Codes of Conduct persuade tourists to play an active and positive role in protecting the physical environment and engaging sympathetically with host communities. Additionally, codes for tourists are useful to other stakeholders in tourism, as a means of:
The UNEP/IE survey identified three types of tourist codes: general behavior codes; specialist activity codes; and site specific codes.
A.1.1. General Behavior Codes
General behavior codes for tourists generally include advice both for planning the trip as well as for issues arising on the trip in the host country. Planning advice encourages the tourist to: learn as much as possible about the destination; and patronize tourism business which demonstrate a commitment to environmental conservation. Destination advice encourages the tourist to: respect local culture and traditions; consider the privacy and practices of the host communities; support the local economy by buying local goods and services; contribute to local conservation efforts; conserve and preserve the natural environmental, its ecosystems, and wildlife; not disfigure cultural sites and monuments; use energy and water efficiently; dispose of waste properly; and use only designated roads and paths.
A.1.2. Specialist Activity Codes
These codes are for specialized activities such as mountain biking, climbing, or whitewater rafting and kayaking. The basic premise of such codes is: enjoy, but don't destroy. Such codes generally emphasize these points: avoid disturbing wildlife and damaging ecosystems; dispose of waste properly; respect the practices of the local community; and respect local legislation.
A.1.3. Site Specific Codes
These codes address tourist behavior in specific location, such as national parks and protected areas. Such codes often combine general guidelines with more specific localized ones: dispose of waste properly; protect the natural and cultural environment; use energy efficiently; pay a fair price for goods and services; do not give money, sweets, or other items to begging children (there are other ways to help them).
A.2.0. Host Communities Codes
Environmental Codes of Conduct for host communities address three major areas of interaction between host communities and tourism: the social and cultural norms of the host community; the economic development of the host community; and the protection and preservation of the local environment. These codes are useful tools for focusing local communities concerns and for informing tourists and tourism businesses about host communities concerns, such as: the role of the local population in tourism development; safeguarding local cultures and traditions; educating the local population on the importance of maintaining a balance between conservation and economic development; and providing quality tourist products and experiences.
A.3.0. Tourism Industry Codes
The tourism industry is the principal source of voluntary environmental codes. These are produced by government, tourism organizations, tourism industry associations, and non- governmental organizations focusing on tourism. Government tourism organizations' codes generally have a national focus and address the development and management of sustainable tourism without specific relevance to the different sectors involved in tourism. Tourism industry associations can be either national, regional, or international, and can also be sector-specific, such as hotel industry codes. Non-governmental organization codes recognize the relationship between the environment and tourism. NGOs, such as WWF, The Ecotourism Society, and IUCN can produce codes to catalyze and strengthen efforts to promote environmentally responsible tourism.
Most tourism industry codes address issues such as:
A.3.1. Overall environmental commitment
A.3.2. Overall responsibility
The industry should accept responsibility for the environmental impact of tourism and take corrective action where necessary.
A.3.3. Taking the environment into account in planning and development
A.3.4. Environmentally-sound management practices
A.3.5. Effective cooperation and communication between public and private sectors and the need to exchange information and experience between and within sectors.
Sample Specialist Activity Code
Here is an example of a specialist activity code for trekking in northern Pakistan from a draft version of a section of Trekking in the Karakoram & Hindukush by John Mock and Kimberley O'Neil (Hawthorn, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, November 1996). Many points are equally applicable to all tourists in general.
Tourist Code - Trekking in Northern Pakistan
Ecotourism means being environmentally, economically and culturally responsible while travelling. Ecotrekking is a way of applying these values while trekking. As a trekker, ask yourself what you can do to lighten the impact trekking has on the environment and local culture. The point is not to become part of the problem. Being prepared to take care of yourself and to take responsibility for your actions while travelling in the Karakoram and Hindukush is a basic obligation of all trekkers.
Voluntary Codes of Conduct for tourists, tour operators, and host communities have been developed in many parts of the world. In Pakistan, the government, NGOs, and trekking companies are working to develop guidelines, but such information is not yet readily available and little has been done to implement ecotrekking principles. Hence, much depends upon you as an individual adopting an activist approach. The first step is to learn about the culture and environment you will be visiting before you come to Pakistan. Reading books will get you started. If you book a trek with a tour operator abroad, ask them for information about their practices, any guidelines for trekkers they may have, and for appropriate reading. Contact grassroots organisations and NGOs working in Pakistan for more specific information about ecotourism, culture, and the environment. It is up to you to make trekking a positive experience for you, your friends, and for local people, so please share what you learn with others.
Everybody is glad to see more trekkers coming to Pakistan. What everyone is not glad to see are the piles of trash at camp sites, the trees cut down, the toilet paper strewn along trails, the heaps of plastic bottles behind hotels, villagers angry with trekkers for wearing too-revealing clothing, and trekkers arguing with guides and porters over wages. Trekkers and local people need to be aware of these problems and learn how to deal with them. Trekkers can learn to behave appropriately and can teach by example. This enhances the trekking experience for everyone and improves the overall image of tourism.
II. Minimum Impact Guidelines
Ecotrekking principles translate into specific actions. Perhaps the most important single action you can take is to reduce the size of your trekking party, which will minimise your overall impact. Other actions can be usefully grouped into three areas: environmental, economic, and cultural considerations. Following these minimum impact guidelines will help sustain the Karakoram and Hindukush and its people.
A. Environmental Considerations
Whenever and wherever you find people working to conserve the natural environment, encourage them and compliment their efforts. Beyond this, you can make an effort to keep your trek from degrading the environment. Avoid overvisited trekking areas by selecting a less known trekking destination and travelling off-peak season if possible. Make sure your trek does not increase pollution, erosion, deforestation, and loss of wildlife in the Karakoram and Hindukush.
You can control pollution on trek by managing trash disposal and avoiding water contamination. Trash disposal systems do not exist along trekking routes, so everyone involved in a trekking party has to share responsibility. This includes the trekkers, the guide, trek crew, porters and any trekking company and/or tour operator abroad. Act responsibly yourself and supervise anyone you hire to ensure no one in your party pollutes.
Trash Typically three types of trash are produced on trek: organic, burnable, and non-burnable. Trash is an eyesore and can be toxic, and each type of trash needs to be disposed of properly.
Organic trash, such as food scraps, are best disposed of by feeding them to domestic animals or allowing them to decompose underground. In villages or pastures, goats and cows make excellent organic trash disposals. Always ask local people if it is alright to feed scraps to the animals. If no domestic animals are around, bury organic trash. Always bury organic material that decomposes slowly (e.g., orange peels). Remember that when you are over 4,000 metres, organic waste takes decades to decay. In such locations, carry organic trash to lower elevations for disposal.
Rather than tossing burnables, such as paper or wood products, collect and burn them. Candy wrappers and cigarette butts are trash too and should not be discarded along the trail. Be mindful of when and where you burn trash. Organise a camp routine to collect and burn trash in the morning, preferably where a fire scar already exists. Take care to keep burnable trash as dry as possible avoiding overnight dew.
Non-burnable trash is all trash that is not organic or burnable, such as tins, bottles, aluminium foil, and plastics. Do not bury non-burnable trash since it does not decompose and animals may dig it up and scatter it. Tins and bottles can be given to locals along the trail if they want them. If no one is there to take them, do not leave them. Aluminium foil, foil-lined packages, and plastics do not burn properly and if burned release toxic ozone-depleting gases. Pack all non-burnable trash out to the trail head and dispose of it properly in the nearest city. No formal recylcing facilities exist, but bottles, aluminum, and plastic are informally recycled in cities. Take used battery cells back home to your country for recycling or disposal. If you find an existing trash hole at a camp site, ideally pack its contents out. If this isn't possible, then partially cover the hole with large flat stones or wood to keep the trash from being scattered by weather or animals. Carry a container to collect and transport your non-burnable trash. Crush any tins to save space. Carrying out non-burnable trash does not increase porterage costs; the added weight is minimal and will only require a separate porter load with a large trekking party. Pick up others' trash when you see it along the trail and encourage everyone with you to do the same. This sets a good example; carry a few small bags for this purpose. None of this is difficult or time consuming, but it makes a substantial difference.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle are the three `R's' of environmentally conscious people. You can minimise waste generation (i.e., the trash you produce) by avoiding the use of non- biodegradable, non-burnable packaging. Purchase food for trek that has minimal packaging and where you have a choice, avoid plastic, cellophane and foil-packaged foods. Buy in bulk and transport items like flour, rice, lentils, sugar, and salt in reusable cloth bags or stuff sacks. You can further minimise trash on trek by removing packaging (e.g., paper boxes, tins) from dry and powdered foods and repacking them into sturdy reusable containers before your trek. Do not buy or drink beverages in unrecycleable plastic containers (e.g., bottled mineral water) or tetrapaks. In towns, choose beverages in reusable glass bottles over harder to recycle tin cans. Dispose of residual waste responsibly, by recycling whenever possible. Locals will likely be able to repair any damaged gear and be happy to take it, along with any other unwanted gear after your trek.
|Length of time (in years) it takes common materials to decompose|
|orange peels||up to 2|
|cigarette butts||1 to 5|
|wool socks||1 to 5|
|plastic bags||10 to 20|
|plastic film canisters||20 to 30|
|nylon fabric||30 to 40|
|leather||up to 50|
|aluminum cans and tabs||80 to 100|
|glass bottles||1 million|
Women may need to deal with tampons or sanitary napkins while on trek. Bring tampons or sanitary napkins with minimal packaging from home. Avoid bringing tampons with plastic applicators in favor of cardboard ones, which can be disposed of easily. Tampons are generally difficult to burn even when helped along with kerosene. Sanitary napkins with plastic coating also are hard to burn. Do not bury either since they do not decompose easily. Although it may seem inconvenient or unpleasant, plan to pack out all tampons, non-burnable applicators, and/or sanitary napkins for disposal in a city. Carry a few sturdy plastic bags for this purpose.
Water Contamination Water contamination occurs when human waste and other contaminants enter open water sources. Human waste contamination spreads hepatitis, typhoid and intestinal parasites such as giardia, amoebas, and round worms, posing a health risk for residents, trekkers, and wildlife alike. Clean water should be everyone's right. Villagers should not have to drink trekkers dishwater or soap suds!
You can avoid contaminating water sources by taking care when washing or bathing and when going to the toilet. Do not put soaps, even biodegradable soaps, or toothpaste in open water sources. Wash yourself, your dishes, and your clothes in a basin and discard soapy water at least 50 metres from open water sources. A light-weight collapsible plastic basin works well.
During the day, find a discreet location at least 50 metres from any open water source to relieve yourself. Keep toilet paper usage to a minimum and burn all toilet paper with matches or a butane lighter. Pull the toilet paper apart; a wad does not burn. Carrying a small bag to collect toilet paper to burn later in camp also works.
How to best deal with human faeces will depend on where you are. Below treeline, bury it with other organic matter where soil microbes and worms will decompose it. You may want to carry a light-weight trowel for this. Above treeline, organic matter decomposes slowly as frosts are frequent and microbes and worms are few. In remote, uninhabited areas, spread faeces out thinly on rocks to dry it in the sun. The sun's UV rays kill some bacteria and microorganisms. On a glacier using a crevasse for a toilet is actually environmentally sound. The glacier's crushing motion kills some bacteria and the waste will be dispersed and diluted over the many years it will take it to emerge into the river below.
At camp sites, use any existing toilet facility or pit. When a pit is dirty, clean it. Create a toilet site only where none exists, ensure it is at least 50 metres from any open water source and half a metre deep. Ask any locals if they have any concerns about the spot you have selected. Make sure it is not where others may want to sleep or cook. This is a real problem in heavily used areas such as along the Baltoro Glacier. If you are with a trekking company that carries a portable toilet tent, make sure they follow these same guidelines. Use toilet paper sparingly. Do not put toilet paper or trash in a toilet pit or crevasse; burn it. Have some dirt available to sprinkle in the pit after each use; this helps faeces to decompose and reduces odors. If you have a guide, trek crew, or porters, encourage them to use the toilet site as well. Along the Baltoro Glacier, pit toilets exist, but are not used by porters who greatly outnumber trekkers! When leaving the camp site, cover the pit with dirt at least three to four cm above ground level to allow for decomposition and settling.
Other Pollution Graffiti on rocks is a permanent form of environmental pollution that is easily avoided. Discourage your trek crew from writing their names or drawing on rocks.
Remember that many people find smoking offensive. The Aga Khan encourages Ismaili Muslims not to smoke, so please respect the wishes of others.
Minimise noise and don't make any unnecessary noise. Ask your trek crew to do the same. It is astounding how noisy a crowded camp site along the Baltoro Glacier can be at 4:30 a.m.!
The extreme steepness of the land in the Karakoram and Hindukush means erosion is a constant natural process. Arable land is a scarce and valuable resource and plants that help hold the soil together on steep slopes are few. When trekking, keep this in mind and trek gently; do not damage or collect plants or flowers; stay on trails where they exist; and do not cut switchbacks.
Use established camp sites and places for cooking, sleeping, and toilet. Although this concentrates the environmental impact, it minimises the overall disturbance. If there is no established camp site (not uncommon in the Karakoram and Hindukush's more unvisited areas), select a level campsite at least 50 metres from open water sources and the trail, where you do not need to clear away vegetation. Avoid camping in fragile meadows where you will damage the grass and other plants. Do not cut trees, limbs, or brush to make camp improvements. Do not make trenches around tents because loosening the soil leaves it prone to wind and rain erosion. Before leaving a camp site, naturalize the area, and replace rocks, wood, or anything else you moved. Repair anything you may have damaged such as a stone wall or irrigation channel, which helps hold the scant soil in place.
Trees grow slowly in the arid Karakoram and Hindukush, and wood is a scarce and highly valued local resource for timber and fuel. Some old cedar and juniper trees in some valleys are several thousand years old. Most trekkers agree it would be a crime to cut such slow-growing and ancient trees, and villagers have moved to ban cutting in such areas. Remember that any wood belongs to that area's inhabitants and you, as a visitor, have no right to deplete their scarce resources. Refrain from using what are essentially non-renewable natural resources.
Therefore, always cook on a kerosene stove; do not cook on wood fires. If trekking with a guide, trek crew, or porters, provide stoves and fuel or cooked food for everyone in your trekking party. Consider preparing the same food for everyone simultaneously to conserve fuel.
Bathe with warm-water only when the water is heated without wood (e.g., by solar heat) or on fuel-saving stoves. Instead of requesting boiled drinking water, carry your own water bottles and purify drinking water yourself.
Do not have campfires. Bring adequate warm clothes so you do not depend on campfires for warmth. If trekking with a guide, trek crew, or porters, outfit everyone properly so they do not depend on fires for warmth. Encourage villagers to conserve their fuel wood resources. And in hot, dry places, don't throw cigarettes and matches where they might cause fires.
4. Wildlife Conservation
Unauthorized hunting of and trade in endangered species is illegal and you should not condone or engage in it. Please do not eat wild game, harass, or feed wildlife. Villagers are just beginning to realize that tourists will come to view wildlife, and so are working to prevent poaching. Encourage these first steps at local wildlife conservation whenever possible.
B. Economic Considerations
Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world. Often it is a first or second earner of national income. In Pakistan it is the ninth largest source of foreign currency. Tourism provides economic incentives to promote conservation of wild lands, generates income for park management, and brings needed income to rural populations.
You can help reduce tourism's overall impact by patronizing tour operators abroad, trekking companies in Pakistan, airlines, and hotels that make a commitment to environmentally responsible tourism.
When local people receive economic benefits from tourism, they are more likely to respond positively and work with tourists and trekkers to protect and manage their natural resource base. Giving business to locally owned and operated trekking companies and hotels and buying local products keeps tourist revenue in the local economy. When you bring freeze-dried food from home, or buy imported food in big city shops, you are not contributing to the local economy. An excellent way to make a positive contribution is to hire a porter. Often when you enter a new valley you are expected to hire new porters from that valley and release your porters who are from a different area. Instead of viewing this as an inconvenience, realize that the local people through whose area you are walking will now benefit directly from your being there.
Purchase locally grown grains and vegetables in market towns like Chitral, Gilgit, and Skardu whenever possible and plan to be self sufficient while trekking. Living off the land may allow you to travel light, but it imposes a burden on local resources. Villagers grow just enough food for themselves, so do not expect to be able to buy grains and vegetables from them. Where villagers do have a seasonal surplus of fruits, nuts, and dairy products, buying these helps put needed cash into the local economy.
Inform yourself about current wages and prices so you can bargain for and pay a fair price for food, lodging, and other services. Avoid giving inappropriate tips. Paying too much contributes to inflation by forcing wages and prices up, while paying too little denies a fair return.
C. Cultural Considerations
Don't ask people to behave in ways or accept values contrary to their own traditions. Tell people what you like about their culture. Be respectful while visiting religious places.
When photographing, respect local residents' dignity and right to privacy. You should establish a friendly rapport, ask permission, and get their name and address so you can mail photos back to them. Letting people know you will do so may overcome their reluctance to be photographed and make friends. Photographing women is considered improper throughout northern Pakistan. Respect this sensibility whenever you go. Avoid paying people for taking their photo. This commercializes and cheapens cross-cultural interactions, allowing your economic power to dominate and overwhelm any cultural or personal reluctance to be photographed.
Show respect for local values by dressing conservatively. Tight fitting or revealing dress offends and embarrasses people throughout the Karakoram and Hindukush. Do not wear shorts or lycra, and men should never go bare-chested in public. Locals may not say anything to foreigners, who then incorrectly assume their indiscreet dress is alright. However, there are signs posted in the Skardu bazaar and in Karimabad in Hunza asking foreigners to dress discreetly. Loose fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirts are the best choice. Women need to take greater care to wear baggy clothes and cover their legs down to the ankles and arms down to the wrists. Being on vacation is not an excuse for inappropriate behavior! Once, in a village apricot orchard crowded with dozens of boys and girls, a male trekker standing outside his tent stripped down to his underpants in order to change his trousers. His thoughtless behavior managed to offend everyone present.
Avoid public displays of affection. Holding hands, hugging, and kissing are considered private acts, not to be openly and shamelessly displayed. However, public hand holding between men is common as an expression of friendship and rarely has any sexual overtones. `Holiday romances' with local men harm the image of Western women. Most local men are married and either see the relationship as a ticket to the West or as validation of the misconception that most Western women are sexually available.
While trekking, nude bathing is also considered vulgar and shameless. Wash your body in your tent, using a wash cloth and a basin of water. Washing hair, face, hands, and feet outside is fine; Islam emphasizes personal cleanliness.
Discourage begging and do not give anything to beggars. It is a superficial and negative interaction. Muslims are expected to give part of their income to the needy, and Pakistan has more than its share of needy people. If you want to make a contribution, approach an appropriate person, such as a school headmaster, a community leader, or a representative of a local service organisation, and ask how you can best make a donation. Harder to tolerate are children who demand sweets, pens, or rupees because previous tourists handed them out or the children who throw stones at travellers who say no. Gifts are part of Pakistani hospitality, but throwing goodies around indiscriminately for the sake of goodwill paves a rough road for future travellers. Whatever your status in your own country, most people in Pakistan will perceive you as rich, leading to an idealized image of life in the West. Please make an effort to present a more balanced picture of life in the West by showing how earnings are linked to the cost of living.
The cultures of the Karakoram and Hindukush are now subject to a barrage of new influences that will inevitably change them. In the face of this change, encourage and acknowledge local cultural pride. Here are some examples from Hunza:
III. Information Sources
Local communities in the Karakoram and Hindukush are realizing that their environment constitutes perhaps their greatest asset, and are taking steps to conserve and manage it. Trekkers can help by supporting grass roots organisations that work to preserve the environment and address problems created by tourism. Some of them in Pakistan are:
Back to Table of Contents for Survey of Ecotourism Potential in the Biodiversity Project Area
Copyright Text & Photographs © John Mock & Kimberley O'Neil 1997-2021
All rights reserved. Unauthorized redistribution of this document is prohibited.