Gangotri to Amarnath
Elsewhere environment is a concern, here it's not
FOR the last so many years the people in Kashmir, local media and environmentalists have been voicing concern on the damage caused to fragile ecology of the glacier, nestling Amarnath cave. The area has been witnessing extremely huge rush of pilgrims. Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Lidder Nalla are facing the main brunt of this man-made catastrophe.
But as usual the state government, Shri Amaranth Shrine Board and Delhi all remained frigid. Fortunately the Supreme Court, on July 16, has stepped in and taken suo motto notice on the basis of the media reports which pointed to the alarming rise of the deaths of Amarnath pilgrims. Around 86 pilgrims have died in first 17 days of over a month long pilgrimage this year that began from June 25. The Apex Court has issued notices to the Union government, JK government and the Chief of the SASB. The court has sought explanation as to why a huge number of people are allowed to visit the cave daily given the fragile ecological nature of the area. The court also expressed concern over the number of casualties due to natural death en route cave area. Terming the cave area as ‘a very sensitive place from the environment point of view’, the court questioned why seven times the requisite number of people coming to visit the cave per day is being permitted and observed that the government was duty-bound to control pollution and damage to environment.
As per the statement of SASB which manages the pilgrimage, around five lakh people have performed Yatra so far (16 July), with 17,174 pilgrims having ‘darshan’ at the cave this day. The Yatra ends on 2 August this year. It follows with the Yatra continuing at present rate, the next seventeen days would witness, from ‘environmental view point’, the foot-prints of nearly three lakh more people. 8 lakh Yatris visiting the Himalayan cave shrine 13000 feet high at once. The effect is obvious.
Kashmir is not the only pilgrimage destination which draws devotees to seek blessings. There are various other high altitude places and glaciers Hindus are devotionally committed to and they visit there. Butwith glaring differences. There the governments are passionately sensitive to environment and assert their authority. Here environment least bothers our government which fails to convince SASB. In Utrakhand lies the Gangotri, one of the most revered Hindu pilgrimage destination. Some of the Hindus see it more sacred than Amarnath cave. River Ganges, we know, originates from Gangotri. Gaumukh (the face of cow) is a revered pilgrimage site there. The rush of the pilgrims and the waste they generate have evoked strong response from the environment conscious people which ultimately forced government to declare the area environment sensitive and demarcated it as Gangotri National Park. The flow of pilgrims to Gangotri was also restricted to 150 per day. Compare it with over seventeen thousand of Yatris swarming to the Amarnath cave daily and 70,000 Kgs of waste everyday they leave behind.
Glaciology experts fear that this mammoth rush of pilgrims is likely to cause rapid environmental degradation and adverse impact on Nehnar glacier situated at a height of 3700 to 4200 meters around Baltal. It is important to know that wherein in 1989 only 12000 Yatris would visit the Shrine, the number swelled to 4,50,000 in 2005 (40 times) and this year it surely will break all the previous records. An article carried by the Union government owned press Information Bureau on its website in 2008 exposes the motive behind the exponential increase in number of pilgrims. ‘The yearning for Moksha (salvation) can move the devotees’, the article read, ‘to the challenging heights of Kashmir. This will also be a befitting gesture of solidarity with our variant soldiers who have been fighting to the enemy to defend our borders’. It is because of this sinister motive that A G Noorani, a well know legal luminary, siege Yatra ‘pure communal aggression bereft of religious piety’. For Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca you restrict flow of pilgrims to holiest shrine by drawing lots. Here in case of Amarnath Yatra it is free for all.
Pilgrims are welcome, but we hope certain measures are taken which prove beneficial for them and also for the place they visit to seek blessings. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastupdate on : Thu, 26 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 26 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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