Increasing solid waste threatens Bhaderwah meadows

The increasing accumulation of solid waste due to the sudden influx of tourists could lead to Bhaderwah’s undoing, fear environmentalists.

With imposing mountains, lush meadows and an abundance of greenery and free flowing fresh water bodies, Bhaderwah Valley of Jammu region remains unparalleled in terms of natural beauty and off-late has etched on every tourist’s wishlist.

High tourist influx since the past couple of weeks has altered Bhaderwah Valley’s cleanliness scenario and the lacklustre performance of different government agencies, especially of Bhaderwah Development Authority (BDA), hasn’t helped.

Pleasant weather, better security and improved infrastructure have resulted in a tourism bonanza for the valley. It is estimated that more than 2.5 lakh tourists—mostly people from other parts of the country—visited high altitude meadows of Bhaderwah valley during the last 4 weeks.

As per official figures of BDA, with 25 thousand people directly or indirectly involved in the Bhaderwah valley’s tourism industry, it is now easily the biggest contributor to the local economy. The boom in tourist numbers is cause for joy, and has also led to a boom in the business of small time vendors, especially in the famed high altitude meadows of Padri, Jaie and Guldanda.

Although increased footfall of tourists has brought with it a much-needed economic boost, however, as with most good things, there are some serious side-effects. Visitors exit the area leaving litter strewn all over the place. Such carelessness taints the same beauty thousands flock to the region to witness. Nature lovers in the region are incensed by the attitude of BDA.

Waste generation in high altitude meadows of the otherwise pristine valley, especially Jaie, Padri, Khanni Top, Baggan and Guldanda, reached alarming proportions and has become a cause of concern for environmentalists and nature lovers as these meadows are rapidly being filled by the garbage, especially non-biodegradable wrappers and plastic bottles.

“Authorities, especially the BDA, must realise they have to properly dispose waste to protect nature.” said Rajni Devi, a tourist and a nature lover from Samba.

“If this rate of pollution continues, it is quite likely these meadows will lose its natural beauty in a couple of years,” she added.

With tourists from all over India and the world moving into Bhaderwah Valley in droves, solid waste now threatens not just the ecology, but the tourism industry itself. Environmentalists are already expressing their concerns about the policy paralysis.

“Visitors cannot be solely blamed for the mess as there are very few waste bins in the meadows visited by hundreds of tourists every day. The absence of the management waste bins is an indicator of the BDA’s lack of resolve to develop proper infrastructure and save environment in the region,” said Dharam Kant Dogra, a renowned environmentalist.

 On being contacted, CEO BDA, Dr Rajinder Khajuria, said, “This is a very serious issue and a matter of concern as my staff keeps me updated on a daily basis about the cleanliness, but the pictures and videos of Padri meadow on interstate Bhaderwah-Chamba road tell a different story. This callous attitude of the staff will not be tolerated and stern action will be initiated against them for dereliction of duties and providing wrong information.”

“High altitude meadows and water bodies are the main attraction for the tourists and these are the only things if kept in its original form can further boost the prospects of tourism here. To save the natural paradise, we will form a task force to implement polythene and disposables ban in letter and spirit,” the CEO added.