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Clean up for Himalayan rubbish

The Press Association, July 14, 2009 -

A Buddhist holy man took a team of hundreds of monks, nuns and disciples on a 250-mile trek to collect rubbish from the Himalayas. (Click here to view article at Virgin Media, Channel 4 or The Press Association.)

During the mission, the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa and his devotees collected thousands of waste bottles, wrappers and drink cans.

The Drukpa, along with 750 monks, nuns and other disciples trekked from the north Indian tourist destination of Manali to the ancient Himalayan capital of Leh to create awareness about the hazards of non-biodegradable waste.

Their efforts yielded a waste collection of 60,000 plastic bottles, 10,000 chewing-gum wrappers and 5,000 cans of carbonated drink. The group endured the threat of avalanches, heavy snow, restricted food supply and rough conditions to cross five Himalayan passes at altitudes of up to 5,300 metres.

The Drukpa and his followers visited over 30 villages along the way to educate and encourage more than 150,000 residents on conserving the environment. The spiritual leader also launched a campaign to ban plastics.

Malaysian devotee Lynne Chiang, who made the journey, said: "Pamphlets and canvas bags were distributed to the villagers along the way to discourage the use of plastic."

The group collected every scrap of rubbish they could find on their mountain route.

"Monks and nuns went into steep ravines near streams and rivers to pick up the rubbish," the Malaysian added.

Together, they made up one of the biggest groups to attempt such a trek. The group were followed by 38 trekkers and cooks with 320 mules carrying supplies including oxygen tanks, a medical tent, cooking utensils, gas and backpacks.

"The conditions were very tough, but the journey was gratifying because in today's uncertain world where we search for true happiness, we got an opportunity to commune with nature, which was really therapeutic," the Drukpa told the Times of India after the end of his trek that lasted over a month.