Amid Pilgrim Rush, Uttarakhand Faces Litter Problems | Latest India News

The Himalayan heights in Uttarakhand are littered with rubbish that thousands of pilgrims throw away during the Char Dham pilgrimage, creating a new ecological hazard, experts and activists have said.

In just 13 days since the start of the pilgrimage this year, over 500,000 pilgrims have visited the Char Dham shrines and over a million have registered to visit. With the summer break expected in the plain after mid-May, the influx of tourists and pilgrims should increase. Officials estimate that more than one million people would visit the state, including pilgrims, over the next few months.

During the Char Dham pilgrimage, an average person generates a minimum of 7-9 kg of waste, assuming they take nine days to complete the journey to the four shrines, according to Anoop Nautiyal, founder of the Communities of Char Dham Foundation. social development based in Dehradun.

“Thousands of tons of trash are generated during the Char Dham yatra (pilgrimage) season by pilgrims, in addition to the daily trash generated by people living in these areas, and other tourists and travelers going on treks,” said said Nautiyal. “There is no system to properly dispose of this waste.”

The Char Dham pilgrimage usually begins in May and continues until November. The start and end dates are determined by the Hindu religious almanac. It is one of the most popular pilgrimages in the Himalayas which sees a massive influx of pilgrims to the mountainous state.

In the absence of any waste disposal mechanism under the 2016 solid waste management rules, Nautiyal said, waste mainly ends up in rivers, harming the local ecology. In some places where waste is collected, it is often burned in the open, causing air pollution. “Open trash and litter also heightens the threat from monkeys, which remains a major problem in the state,” he added.

Environmentalists are appalled to see images and videos on social media of litter strewn across the Yamuna, Bhagirathi and Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers on Char Dham roads. In Yamnotri and Gangotri, the rivers are full of clothes that pilgrims throw away after taking a holy bath.

In Uttarkashi, a town on the road to Gangotri, the local municipality dumps rubbish near the Tambakhani tunnel at the main entry point to the town, most of which is washed away in the Bhagirathi River.

“The smell is unbearable as a huge amount of waste is dumped near Tambakhani tunnel on the road adjacent to the Ganges, and sometimes the workers are involved in burning the waste which is dangerous for the environment,” said Lokendra Bisht, a social activist in Uttarkashi.

Balwant Bisht, chief executive of Uttarkashi City Council, acknowledged the spill, but said tenders had been issued to operate another dump site near Tiloth.

In Chamoli, where the Badrinath Temple is located, a video went viral last week showing workers from the local district panachayat dumping rubbish into the Alaknanda River. District Magistrate Himanshu Khurana has since filed a complaint against the workers. “I also ordered officials to search for land so that the waste can be disposed of scientifically,” Khurana said.

In Uttarkashi, Subdivisional Magistrate Shalini Negi admitted that pilgrims were throwing rubbish and old clothes into the river. “We ask them not to throw clothes into the rivers, but pilgrims continue to do so because they think it’s an act of faith,” she said.

“Pilgrims often throw clothes into the rivers here due to superstitious beliefs. We urged them to donate their clothes to the poor, but due to their faith, it becomes difficult to convince them,” said Pawan Uniyal, temple priest and former president of Mandir Samiti Yamunotri.

Harish Rana, a resident of Chamoli where the Badrinath shrine is located, said: “We welcome pilgrims here but at the same time we don’t want them to pollute these sacred mountains and rivers here by dumping rubbish. They must take their waste with them or throw it in the bins wherever they find it. A true pilgrimage is one where one does not pollute the house of God or a sacred place.

It is appalling to see both dry and wet waste dumped into the river at Yamunotri, indicating that waste management interventions are not being adhered to, leaving the fragile Himalayan mountains in the highlands polluted, said Vipin Kumar, an ecologist who studies waste. generation and disposal for the Disaster Mitigation and Management Center in the state capital, Dehradun.

“With over 500,000 pilgrims having visited the four main shrines so far and over 10 lakh having registered, one can very well imagine the amount of waste that will be generated during the yatra period, which will go until November,” Kumar said. “We don’t have a solid waste management system and most visitors don’t put their trash in the designated places.”

Ravi Bisht, mission manager of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) program in Uttarakhand, said their objective was to train rapid response teams after looking into the problem of waste dumped in rivers and giving instructions to concerned district administrations to ensure that no waste enters the rivers. Char Dham road.

Curbside waste collection has started in 1,152 urban local agency wards across the state, while source separation is being carried out in 1,040 urban local agency wards, including Joshimath and Uttarkashi, a- he said, citing the survey’s swacchta (cleanliness) report.

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