Curb colossal ecological destruction during Char Dham Yatra: NGT-appointed panel

The NGT will assess the report when it hears the matter January 25, 2023

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 13 January 2023
Pilgrims flock to the shrine of Badrinath. Photo: iStock

A Joint Committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slammed what it termed “gross mismanagement of solid waste, liquid waste and plastic waste pollution and the appalling lack of infrastructure to deal with the huge influx of pilgrims and tourist population during peak seasons” on the Char Dham Yatra in a report released January 13, 2023.

The panel has made several recommendations including the commissioning of a study on the impact of tourism on biodiversity in the region as well as strict enforcement of waste management rules, according to a statement by the Public Policy Foundation and People for Animals.

The report was submitted in compliance with directions of the NGT in OA No 561 of 2022. Four pilgrim track routes were assessed by the committee namely, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and Hemkund Sahib.

‘Appalling mismanagement’

The panel made some scathing observations.

It said a common practice executed by Zilla Panchayats of the respective pilgrim track regions involved the dumping of solid and plastic waste into Nagar Palika trenching areas in flagrant violation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.

It noted “overflowing soak pit toilets, insufficient number of public toilets, poor strength of manpower (sweepers) to clean the tracks, non-existent disposal mechanism to deal with equine dung, wastewater and equine carcasses and the overall lack of regulation of the number of equines plying the track”.

It recommended measures like:

  • Regulating equine entry commensurate with carrying capacity of the region.
  • Management and monitoring of equine health.
  • Provision of a team of veterinarians to look into equine care and prevent animal abuse.
  • Establishment of equine housing facilities in compliance with the BIS Code of Practice for Equine Housing, 1964.
  • Site-specific solid waste segregation.
  • Collection, transportation and management with use of bio composting pits.
  • Regular monitoring and data collection of soil and water quality.

“The acknowledgement of massive pollution in the pilgrim track regions of Uttarakhand and the documentation of disastrous pollution on the ground by the fact finding committee justifies the need for urgent policy intervention,” Urvashi Shobhna Kachari, the petitioner in the case and member secretary, Consumers For Sustainability was quoted as saying in the statement.

The report was drafted by scientific experts from Central Pollution Control Board, Uttarakhand State Pollution Control Board and GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment.

The NGT’s Principal Bench will assess the report January 25.

The report comes even as the town of Joshimath on the way to the shrine of Badrinath has sunk due to land subsidence blamed on the National Thermal Power Corporation’s Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydroelectric Project and the Helang Bypass, which is part of the Char Dham Project.

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