Social Welfare

Is India’s Religious Tourism Causing Damage?

By Patel Himani 6 Min Read
Last updated: July 21, 2022


Religious tourism is on the rise, and with good reason. Tourists who visit religious sites like the Taj Mahal or Angkor Wat are often praised for their reverence and appreciation of these historical sites. However, not everyone sees religious tourism in a positive light. Some people believe that religious tourism is damaging India's fragile Himalayas. In this article, we'll explore the pros and cons of religious tourism and see if it hurts India's mountains.

What is Religious Tourism?

Most people think of religious tourism when they think of trips to places like Egypt or India. Religious tourism, however, can also be found in other parts of the world, like the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Religious tourism is travel to a place for religious reasons or to visit religious sites. There are pros and cons to religious tourism. The main pro is that it can generate income for a place that may not usually see many tourists. The main con is that it can sometimes damage a place’s environment or disturb its inhabitants. In some cases, religious tourists have been known to cause damage to sacred sites by throwing rocks at statues or disturbing ceremonies. Generally, it is essential to be aware of what constitutes religious tourism and respect the culture and beliefs of the people you visit. It is also essential to be respectful of the environment and not litter or damage any property.

Background on Religious Tourism in India

India is a country with a rich history and culture. It is also home to one of the world's most sacred mountain ranges, the Himalayas. Religious tourism has become increasingly popular in India, especially among those who believe in Hinduism and Buddhism. However, religious tourism is also causing some damage to the fragile Himalayan environment. Many of the tourist destinations in the Himalayas are located in areas that are heavily polluted or affected by deforestation. Additionally, many religious tourists do not adequately respect local cultures and religions. This can lead to conflicts between visitors and locals and negative publicity for India as a tourist destination. The government of India is aware of these issues and is working to address them. In 2016, the Indian government announced a plan to create 20 national parks in the Himalayas, which will help to protect the environment and promote tourism in an ethically responsible way.

The Problem with Religious Tourism in India

There is a big problem with religious tourism in India. Religious tourism is based on the false assumption that Hindus and Buddhists are tolerant of each other and that visiting a religious site will make people more tolerant. This is not the case. Religious tourism is one of the leading causes of religious intolerance in India. When people come to India to visit religious sites, they often forget about the people who live there. They see only the temples and monks and ignore the rest of the population. This attitude fuels religious intolerance because it makes people believe that those who live in these areas are strange or inferior. The Indian government has exacerbated this problem. The government encourages religious tourism by offering tax breaks and subsidies to businesses that cater to tourists. This influx of tourists has increased prices and competition for jobs, which has caused problems for residents. Religious tolerance is essential, but it can only be achieved through education. We need to show tourists what life is like for ordinary people in these areas, whether they are Hindu or Buddhist. They will only understand why these areas are essential to so many people.

Devotion to Nature in the Himalayas

The Himalayas are a sacred mountain range in northern India. The mountains are home to various religious sects, and each has its way of worshipping the mountains. The ranges are also home to endangered animals and plants. Religious tourism in the Himalayas is increasing and is causing damage to the fragile environment. Many people visit the mountains to see holy sites belonging to different religious sects, but they do not consider the impact their visits have on the environment. Some of the activities that are damaging the environment include hiking, camping, and picnicking. These activities increase the use of water, wood, and fuel. These resources can be challenging to find in areas that are already scarce. Another problem with religious tourism is that it attracts people who do not respect the environment. These visitors often leave trash behind, which pollutes rivers and lakes. They also erect temporary shelters that damage forests and soil. The government needs to take action to promote eco-tourism instead of just focusing on religious tourism. This will help protect the environment while allowing people access to holy sites. Religious tourism is a rapidly growing industry in India, with visitors coming primarily from China, the United States, and Europe. Religious tourists are often more interested in visiting holy sites than in nature conservation, which can lead to environmental damage. Like most countries, India is also frequently facing extreme weather events. These events sometimes cause people to question whether tourism is good for the country. A recent study has shown that religious tourism in India's Himalayas damages the region's fragile environment. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and Jadavpur University studied 83 cases of environmental degradation in nine Himalayan states during 2012-2017. They found that religious tourism was primarily to blame for these problems, as tourists consumed more resources and posed a more significant threat to the environment than other visitors. The study also found that religious sites were more vulnerable to damage because they were located in areas with less infrastructure and were not adequately maintained. The study's authors urged authorities to enforce stricter regulations on tourist activities to protect the environment.

The region has witnessed several natural disasters over the years.

One of the latest was the earthquake that occurred in 2015 in Nepal. It is estimated that more than 8,000 people died, and more than 19,000 were injured. The disaster also caused a lot of damage to infrastructure. In addition, many people lost their homes and their belongings. There have been similar disasters in India too. For example, in 2013, an earthquake in Sikkim killed over 16 people and injured around 60. Furthermore, the earthquake destroyed many buildings and left roads impassable. The reason why these disasters are happening is because of the religious tourism that is taking place in the Himalayas. This type of tourism involves people visiting religious sites such as temples and monasteries. However, this type of tourism can hurt the environment because it causes damage to buildings and roadways. Additionally, it can also cause a lot of noise pollution. Religious tourism is growing increasingly popular worldwide, but it should be done responsibly so that we don’tdamage our environment. Earlier in July, at least 16 pilgrims were killed after flash floods hit their makeshift camps near the Amarnath shrine. The Amarnath shrine is a popular religious destination for pilgrims from all over the world. Many people believe that religious tourism is a good thing for India. They argue that it helps to preserve India's fragile Himalayas and cultural heritage. Others are concerned about the consequences of religious tourism on the environment. They argue that it can damage local ecosystems and increase pollution levels. So far, there has been little evidence to support either side of the argument. Religious tourism is still a relatively new phenomenon in India, and it is still unclear how it will affect the environment. In 2013, the town of Kedarnath was hit by devastating floods - triggered by heavy monsoon rains - in which thousands of people have swept away. Over the past few years, Kedarnath has become a popular tourist destination. This has caused significant damage to the area's fragile environment. The floods that hit Kedarnath last year were triggered by heavy monsoon rains. Thousands of people have been swept away in the floods, and many more were injured. This damage is not unique to Kedarnath – religious tourism is responsible for several other destructive practices in India's Himalayas. For example, religious pilgrimage can lead to deforestation and pollution. However, this trend has been controversial in some parts of India. Heavy monsoon rains led to devastating floods in the town of Kedarnath in the Himalayas. This disaster caused thousands of people to be swept away and left dozens dead. Some locals believe that religious tourism is responsible for floods. They claim that tourists flock to see holy sites during times of flood, which causes the water levels to rise higher than they would typically do. This then causes the rivers to overflow their banks and cause flooding. Others argue that religious tourism has had a positive impact on the region. They say it has helped create jobs and income for local people. India's Himalayan region has several revered Hindu shrines and attracts millions of pilgrims annually.

The Debate: Is Religious Tourism Damaging India's Fragile Himalayas?

The debate over whether or not religious tourism is damaging India's fragile Himalayan region is ongoing and complex. The argument against religious tourism is that it encourages more people to visit the region, increasing the demand for resources like water and energy. This, in turn, could lead to biodiversity loss and other environmental damage. Supporters of religious tourism argue that the influx of tourists will also create jobs and help promote local businesses. Additionally, they argue that the money tourists spend on local businesses helps maintain the delicate balance of the region's ecosystems. While there is no easy answer to this complicated question, it is important to weigh both sides of the argument before making a decision. If you plan a trip to India's Himalayan region, be sure to do your research better to understand the pros and cons of religious tourism. Environmentalists say a balanced approach is needed to protect centuries-old traditions and the Himalayas.

What is India's Religious 'Char Dham Yatra'?

India's Religious 'Char Dham Yatra' is a famous pilgrimage that attracts thousands worldwide yearly. The journey begins with a visit to the holy shrines of Amarnath, Kedarnath, and Badrinath in the Himalayas. The Char Dham pilgrimage is an important Hindu religious event that commemorates the Hindu god Vishnu's four main steps in his search for enlightenment. Each shrine is associated with a different Vimana or vehicle, and pilgrims make a symbolic journey on each one during the yatra. The Char Dham yatra has been criticized for damaging India's fragile Himalayan environment. The pilgrimage involves extensive travel through remote areas and heavy use of resources, including water supplies. This has led to environmental concerns about how the yatra impacts India's mountains and forests. The government has imposed restrictions on how many people can participate in the Char Dham yatra each year to reduce denvironmental damage Hundreds of thousands of devotees undertake the Char Dham pilgrimage every year. The pilgrimage of the holy sites in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, known as the Char Dham, is one of India's most famous religious tourism destinations. The Char Dham pilgrimage comprises visits to four Hindu shrines: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. The Char Dham pilgrimage is said to be a spiritual journey that can help individuals connect with their divine nature. However, the Char Dham pilgrimage has also been criticized for its negative impacts on the environment and society in Uttarakhand. Hundreds of thousands of devotees undertake the Char Dham pilgrimage annually, leading to increased demand for resources such as water and land. The heavy influx of tourists has caused problems such as overcrowding, pollution, and damage to infrastructure. Additionally, many pilgrims engage in practices that are harmful to the environment, such as burning incense and lighting fires during ceremonies at the shrines. These practices have resulted in environmental degradation and a loss of biodiversity. In addition, Char Dham pilgrims often engage in traditional hand-wringing ceremonies known as kumkum bhajans that can disturb fragile ecosystems. The mountainous state is home to some of the holiest sites for Hindus. The mountainous state, where several Himalayan peaks and glaciers are located, is home to some of the holiest sites for Hindus. Religious tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy. According to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), religious tourism is estimated to be worth over $24 billion in 2020, with growth rates expected to be over 10%. However, some believe that religious tourism is damaging India's fragile Himalayan mountains. For example, the Jammu and Kashmir government has reported that religious tourists are causing environmental degradation, including damage to forests and wildlife habitats. In addition, some religious tourists allegedly engage in illegal activities such as robbery and poaching. While it is impossible to determine whether or not religious tourism is damaging India's Himalayan mountains, travelers need to be aware of the possible consequences before visiting these areas. The holiest sites include the temple towns of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri, which are part of the Himalayan Char Dham Yatra (Four Pilgrimages). The Himalayan region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains some of the world's most sacred places, including Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri. These sites are part of the Himalayan Char Dham Yatra (Four Pilgrimages), a popular religious tourism destination. However, some worry that this tourism is causing irreversible damage to the region's sacred sites. The four pilgrimage destinations are located in Uttarakhand state in the northern part of India. Religious tourists visit these sites during the summer when temperatures reach 50 degrees. This type of intense heat hurts the environment, as it destroys natural resources and causes erosion. Many other revered sites in the Himalayan region include the Amarnath cave shrine and Vaishno Devi temple. Religious tourism, or pilgrimage, has surged recently as people from around the world travel to India to visit sacred sites. But some experts say this tourism is harming India's fragile Himalayan region. The Hindu shrine of Amarnath is a popular destination for religious tourists. The cave shrine is located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, also home to the Vaishno Devi temple, one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. Both sites are famous for their natural beauty and spiritual significance. But experts say religious tourism is contributing to environmental degradation in the region. The influx of tourists has created a large number of temporary campsites and hotels, which have caused vegetation and soil to deteriorate. Additionally, pilgrims often use scarce water resources excessively, damaging streams and reservoirs. Some observers argue that religious tourism should be discouraged to protect the environment. Others maintain that restrictions on the number of pilgrims visiting particular sites would be more effective than trying to ban all religious tourism. In any case, officials say they are working to manage the impact of religious tourism on the environment.

Experts' Say

Experts' say the infrastructural development to accommodate tourists is damaging the fragile ecological balance of the region. According to experts, the development of religious tourist destinations such as the Himalayas is contributing to the degradation of the region's fragile ecological balance. "There is a lot of infrastructure being built up for tourists and this is having a negative impact on the environment," said Ritu Sarin, an environmental activist who has been working in the area for over two decades. "The main problem is that these areas are sensitive to environmental change and when there is rapid development, it can upset the delicate balance." Skin said religious tourism is particularly damaging because it attracts large numbers of people who are not initially aware of the consequences of their actions. "Tourists come here without understanding the sensitivity of these areas and what potential damage they may be causing," she said. "They don't take into account how much water they're using or how much wood they're cutting down." Skin added that religious tourism also contributes to unemployment in the area since many jobs are associated with infrastructure development. "In some cases, local people have lost their livelihoods because of this," she said. "It's not just about creating jobs for locals – it's about preserving these fragile ecosystems for future generations."

The infrastructural development could be vulnerable to earthquakes and landslides.

The north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim is one of the country's most isolated and least developed regions. The region is also home to the world’s highest mountain peak, Mount Everest, and some of the most pristine wildernesses in India. However, tourism is gradually changing, and Sikkim is now one of India's most popular tourist destinations. According to a study published by The Hindu in March 2019, religious tourism could damage India’s fragile Himalayan region. The study found that religious tourism accounted for 60% of all tourists visiting Sikkim and was estimated to have generated £1 billion (US$1.5 billion) for the state’s economy since 2010. While much of this income has been beneficial, the study warns that there is a danger that infrastructural development could be vulnerable to earthquakes and landslides. The report notes that while Sikkim has always been a popular destination for religious pilgrims, it has recently become an increasingly popular tourist destination for people interested in trekking and mountaineering. This has led to an increase in visitor numbers and infrastructure development, such as hotels and restaurants.

Impact of Religious Tourism on the Environment

The hill stations of India, such as Shimla and Manali, are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. While these areas are known for their beautiful scenery, they are also home to many endangered animal and plant species. According to a report by The Guardian, religious tourism is responsible for destroying more than 100 hectares of forest in Uttarakhand each year. This is because many tourists visit religious sites like the temples of Badrinath and Kedarnath without considering their visits' impact on the environment. Not only is religious tourism damaging the environment, but it also costs the country billions of dollars each year. Religious sites in India are some of the most visited in the world, which has increased the price of land and accommodation. As a result, many people cannot afford to visit these sites and instead choose to travel to less-polluted locations.

Arguments for and Against Religious Tourism in India's Himalayas.

There is much debate surrounding the pros and cons of religious tourism in India's Himalayas. On one side, proponents argue that the industry is a crucial source of income for small villages in the region and that visitors are often responsible for preserving local heritage and culture. On the other hand, opponents argue that religious tourism damages India's fragile environment and cultural heritage and can lead to increased religious conflict.

What Can Be Done to Address the Issue?

The issue of religious tourism in the Himalayas has been on the rise in recent years. This type of tourism has been seen as a benefactor to the region, as it provides a way for people from all around the world to come and see some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. However, some are concerned that this tourism harms India's fragile mountains' environment and cultural heritage. One of the main concerns with religious tourism is that it can lead to increased pressure on local resources. This includes water usage, mining operations, and even wildlife conservation. It can also create problems with transportation and accommodation, as businesses catering to religious tourists tend to be much more demanding than those who attract other types of tourists. There are several ways that religious tourism could be improved to protect the environment and cultural heritage in India's Himalayas. One possibility is to discourage visitors from coming simply for religious reasons. Instead, attractions could be promoted based on their natural beauty or historical significance, without any reference to religion. This would make it possible for tourists from all faiths and backgrounds to visit without causing damage.


It seems like everywhere you turn these days, there is some news article or social media post warning about the adverse effects of tourism on a region or country. It can be hard to know what to believe, but in this case, religious tourism might be contributing to the destruction of India's fragile Himalayan environment. The influx of people into these areas is putting an incredible strain on resources and infrastructure, and it will only get worse as the population continues to grow. If you are considering traveling to one of India's sacred mountains, please think about whether or not visiting during religious festivities will positively or negatively impact the area. There is no doubt that religious tourism is one of the primary sources of income for many countries in South Asia. However, with increased numbers of tourists coming to India to visit its various holy sites, there has been an increase in damage and concerns over the long-term sustainability of these regions. The mountainous regions of India are home to some of the world's most sacred Hindu and Buddhist sites, which millions of people visit each year. Unfortunately, this influx of visitors has led to neglect and damage to these areas and increased human traffic and animal poaching. In addition, large amounts of waste generated by religious tourists have caused severe environmental issues such as water pollution and soil erosion. While the benefits of religious tourism are undeniable, we must consider the consequences before continuing to promote this type of travel in Indian mountain ranges. If we want these regions to remain pristine for generations, we must take steps to protect them now.

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