SRINAGAR: On Saturday, 48-day Amarnath Yatra commenced from Baltal and Pahalgam base camps with 9000 Yatris setting off from Holy cave in Himalayas. Social activist Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat visited Chandanwari a week ago to bring some grave issues which face Kashmirs fragile environment
On Tuesday, 28th June 2016, I along with some of my friends visited Chandanwari, the base camp of annual Amarnath Yatra near Pahalgam.
Chandanwari has been turned into a slum due to presence of large number of forces personnel, Langars and Pony walas.
2016 Annual Amarnath Yatra commenced from Saturday and even before the huge Yatra rush in this area, Chandanwari looks like a Mumbai slum. One can imagine how this place will look like after few weeks when 4000 to 5000 Yatris will be visiting holy cave through Chandanwari area per day.
I can say with authority that there is no scientific mechanism in place to handle the solid waste in the area which poses a huge direct threat to environment and ecology of whole Lidder valley right from Holy cave to Bijbehara town.
I saw makeshift lavatories erected by Amarnath Shrine Board. The outlet of these lavatories goes into small pits which are hardly 3 to 4 feet deep. These pits are bound to get blocked from the day 1st of the Yatra.
If there is heavy rainfall in the area all the faecal matter will ooze out and get scattered in the base camp and finally it will drain into Lidder Nallah.
The garbage which was leftover in the area last year is yet to be cleared and forces personnel and other people camping in the area continue to throw all the bio-degradable and non-bio-degradable waste in and around Chandanwari forest area. I saw heaps of plastic, pet bottles, chips rappers scattered around Chandanwari.
I could hardly see any waste collecting bins available at the camping site.
When we interviewed few Langar walas, they said they throw the waste food items in the forest area itself.
The water pipeline was leaking at several places which had made most parts of the camping site muddy and one cannot even walk in these areas.
Huge Kerosene oil gen sets have been installed not only in Chandanwari but they have been dispatched to other camping sites as well located in upper reaches of Chandanwari. Imagine how much noise they will make in the area plus emitting huge smoke as well. Authorities have failed to install solar lighting system in the area.
Yatris should be given cloth bags and advised to dump all the plastic waste inside it and while on return this waste should be collected at Chandanwari and disposed off scientifically.
Irony is that Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) and Municipal Committee Pahalgam have not been provided enough men and machinery which would enable them to undertake scientific Solid Waste Management in the area.
There is no proper garbage dumping site also available in Pahalgam which further aggravates the problem during Amarnath Yatra.
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