In the recently concluded summer session of the state legislative assembly at Srinagar, a new controversy on the "road to Amarnath" has divided the Jammu and Kashmir government.
Gurcharan Singh Chadak, minister ofroads and buildings, informed the assembly that his ministry had proposed the construction of a macadamised road to the Amarnath cave from Pahalgam for which funds had already been allocated.
But Tariq Hamid Qarra, the minister of forests, opposed the move, terming it a violation of environmental laws. He also said that his ministry should have been consulted before taking up the project as the area falls under its jurisdiction.
Environmentalists also oppose the move. Shazia Andrabi, an environmental activist with HOPE, a Srinagar-based NGO, said, "The Pahalgam-Chandanwari road has already degraded hill slopes, causing landslides and siliting up of the Sheshnag stream at several places.This has affected the trout breeding areas on the Lidder river. Extending this road to the Amarnath cave, where more than three lakh pilgrims go annually, can only prove detrimental."
According to Shazia, there are other problems such as noise and air pollution, dusty roads, landslides, soil erosion, pollution of waterways and water bodies and deforestation.
The Pahalgam-Amarnath route is about 45 km, out of which 14 km of Pahalgam-Chandanwari route has been already constructed.
- Zahoor Wani
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