Opinion

Malana Tourist Ban: What it Means, and What it Doesn’t

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

Malana New (2)

So, this is NOT a travelogue. If you want to read a travelogue you can read my Malana post from 2015 that also has other practical details about reaching the place. I am having to write this one due to certain interesting developments in Malana in the last few days, and also because I coincidentally happened to be around when this development was taking place.

What exactly has happened?
So, the news is that the “deity” of Malana is angry due to the excessive intrusion of the tourists. Many in the village are also suffering from various illnesses and such instances are being attributed to the impact of the outsiders. So, the deity no longer wants to host them and hence all the operating guest houses have been asked to close down. So, in short, you can no longer stay in that village at night.

What it actually means?
While we tend to exoticize the eccentric rituals of places such as Malana, I think the logic is simple. The village elders must be wary of the excessive tourism growth in the region because it is primarily driven by the lure of Malana Cream, and related byproducts of similar nature. I am sure assorted rave parties and loud music must have been found their way into the village too. So, they might have invoked the deity simply to make everyone comply because it is also going to affect the livelihood of those from the village who are involved in tourism.

So, can the tourists still visit Malana?
Yes, tourists can still visit Malana, like I did a couple of days ago. But what they can’t do is to stay overnight. So, you must start early, visit the village, and come back before it is dark. I am not sure if there is going to be a complete ban on visiting the village but as of now it is possible. Also, the restaurants were still functioning. So, one could visit and eat at the place but can’t stay.

Was this step necessary? What will be the repercussions?
I am not a fan of censorship or moral policing but I guess something was brewing in the region for a while. This has to do with the lack of sensitivity and common sense on part fo certain tourists, and also the greed of certain locals who benefitted from the tourist influx. Entire stretches of the Parvati Valley looks like a cacophonous carnival. Many great destinations in the area have been ruined by irresponsible tourism. Last year I was horrified to see the amount of littering at the Kheerganga Top. My recent visit to Tosh also failed to delight me.

Malana New (1)

Tourism surely has brought economic prosperity to the region but a focus on sustainability has become necessary. Also, the sudden rise in tourism has made the youth go after easy money. Prices of accommodation and other services are also going up in most places. For example, a couple of years ago, we were quoted INR 500 for a taxi from Jari to Malana entry point (from where one must trek to reach the village). This time the union seems to have built a stronger hold and the fixed price now is INR 850 for that less than 20 KM stretch. On top of that, while returning, when someone tried to give us life, one of the local drivers got very angry and tried to stop that guy from offering lift.

Considering such aspects, I guess for the time being the ban will prevail but there is going to be a generational conflict between the locals. After all, even during this trip came across many villagers offering to sell “cream” (for INR 3000-5000) openly. At least a couple of generations here have grown up learning how to make a living from this and one must understand that everyone wants to earn more and live a better life. So, I am not sure where this is going but it demands a more practical and sensitive handling.

17 Comments

  • 2017/07/11 - 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is this “Malana Cream” that you mention? Since I am a sort of dinosaur, my last visit to the Parvati Valley was in 1996 when there was no talk of this Malana Cream. Do enlighten me, thanks!

    • 2017/07/11 - 10:21 pm | Permalink

      Hi Sir,
      You can safely assume any cryptic item in Parvati to be related to cannabis. Thanks for dropping by.

  • 2017/07/12 - 6:36 am | Permalink

    ऐसा, नशे की खेती का बदनाम गाँव,

  • 2017/07/12 - 9:37 am | Permalink

    You are so right.. irresponsible tourism has disturbed the beauty and ecosystem of so many places.
    Now we have a 5 storeyed hotel in Sandakphu, one of the best treks in Bengal. Now they are planning to make a road all the way to Phalut! It is really disturbing.

  • Lisa
    2017/07/12 - 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Please forgive my ignorance, but where is Malana? I’m guessing somewhere in India given your other posts, but it would be helpful to give some background for us travellers not familiar to this place. I think many developing places like Malana will start to experience this increase in tourism; how it’s handled depends on the town/city.

  • thetravelleaf
    2017/07/12 - 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m not familiar with the place you’re talking about but the article is very interesting. There are always two sides to tourism. Sure, it brings money into remote regions, but at the same time it disturbs the local peace. It’s an interesting way howto solve this though, not letting tourists spend the night there.

  • 2017/07/12 - 11:44 pm | Permalink

    If tourism disturbs local people then it is very disturbing. Instead of banning they can introduce heavy fine system locally. Why this Malana cream so wanted or expensive? Never heard about this type of cream.

  • 2017/07/13 - 12:23 am | Permalink

    This is information. It is always hard to find the balance when tourists over flood an area. On one hand it is great because people are learning and becoming more open, but on the other hand it does impact the community and changes their culture. A tough call

  • 2017/07/13 - 8:28 am | Permalink

    Woah, i surely understand what you are talking about…tourism can disturb the locals…i hope people can understand and are carefull about the places they visit. Thanks for this info it was very useful.

  • 2017/07/13 - 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I think it is very good to be critical when travelling! And try to minimize the impact on the local ecosystem

  • Pingback: Malana Trek, Kasol | The Travelling Slacker

  • 2017/07/13 - 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Wow, how sad that the town has had to resort to this. Its terrible how tourism has affected so many places in such a poor way. Hopefully they can find a happy medium for the town and the tourists. Very interesting read.

  • 2017/07/14 - 6:50 am | Permalink

    hmm… that’s an interesting story.

  • 2017/07/14 - 9:49 pm | Permalink

    If irresponsible tourism continues, the day is not far that some really beautiful places will be removed from tourist map. One needs to respect nature, spaces, people & culture…….. But unfortunately we don’t. Basic civic etiquettes are amiss. Not to forget greed…… Like you shared!!!

  • 2017/07/16 - 12:09 am | Permalink

    I went to Malana few years back and wrote a story on how tourists have actually destroyed the social fabric of the place. I am actually glad this happened. Irresponsible tourism should be curbed.

  • 2017/07/17 - 11:42 am | Permalink

    Interesting…..malana Cream!!!

  • 2017/07/17 - 6:27 pm | Permalink

    A very interesting article. I have never been to Malana. But in general it is a very difficult balance to strike between respecting a culture and allowing the world to experience it. Tourism can easily destroy beautiful places and cultures. But forbidding anyone to visit a place is just as dangerous. I hope the issue will be solved by regulating the amount of tourism but that the village will remain open to tourists.

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