Experts For Cap On Tourist, Pilgrim Inflow

Experts For Cap On Tourist, Pilgrim Inflow

21 June 2013
Greater Kashmir
Imran Muzaffar

Srinagar: The flashfloods and landslides in northern state of Uttarakhand, which environmentalists said were triggered due to imbalance between constructions and environmental protection, have put the spotlight on the fragile ecology of Jammu and Kashmir. While ecologists in Uttarakhand blamed the State and Central Governments for the man-made disaster, experts in Kashmir suggest that a similar situation could arise in J&K if environmental imbalance continues. The disaster has trigged a debate in J&K with experts opining that massive urbanization, huge tourist and Yatri flow pose a threat to the State’s ecology. “A disaster similar to that of Uttarakhand is hovering over J&K,” said environmentalist Dr Shakeel Romshu. “River courses are being encroached upon in the State; river Jhelum has been converted into an urbanized area. There could be similar flashfloods in this region if these negative developments continue.” Dr Romshu said the J&K government and Amarnath Shrine Board do not have a plan to regulate the Amarnath Yatra. “Last year the number of Yatris was over six lakh,” he said. “The Board has no plan to regulate the pilgrimage.” The environmentalist said the number of tourists who visited Pahalgam last year was seven lakh. “The J&K Government too has no plan at all to regulate such a huge flow, which has a devastating impact on ecology of the State,” he said, adding, “Hydro power development in J&K is a possible sign of disaster.” Dr Romshu said the 30-year-long spree of deforestation in the State has a devastating impact on the ecology and is the greatest sign of a disaster. “Wetland conversion is another factor why a disaster is expected,” he said. The environmentalist said the J&K Government should take a cue from the Uttarakhand disaster and formulate a comprehensive plan. “A policy to regulate tourist flow is the need of the hour and environmental-friendly infrastructure has to be put into place.” Dr Khursheed Ahmad Parray, who teaches Geology at Sri Pratap College here, said the Garhwal and Kashmir Himalayas have much in common and both are tectonically very active. “Ecological imbalance can give rise to a similar disaster in the J&K region,” he warned. “Construction of any kind of infrastructure near glaciers and sensitive highlands can increase possibility of flashfloods and landslides.” Dr Khursheed said the recent earthquake in Chenab Valley was caused due to the impounding of water in Baglihar Dam. “The phenomenon has increased the possibility of earthquakes in the whole region,” he said. The geologist said things related to environment must be looked in a sensible way in the State. “We have moving glaciers in Pahalgam and Sonamarg area. The proposed road to Amarnath cave means removing glacier area and of course if earthquake or flashfloods hit the region it would be a man-made disaster,” he said. Dr Khursheed said human activity in the region is increasing, adding to green house gases. “Ecology is at stake. Flashfloods are certain.” It was reported that a couple of months ago, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) cautioned the Uttarakhand government of its ill preparedness to handle disasters. The Jammu and Kashmir Government has been facing a scathing criticism for not having any disaster management plan to cope with unseen situations like the recent earthquake in Chenab Valley. “The J&K Government has to forge a comprehensively plan, otherwise a disaster similar to that of Uttarakhand is just a matter of time,” Dr Khursheed said. The flashfloods and landslides in Uttarakhand killed more than 200, left thousands missing and trapped more than 50, 000 people. Environmentalists claimed that the devastation in the northern state was unprecedented and certainly had to do with the rampant degradation of the environment in the region, India Today reported on Thursday. The ecologists were quoted as saying, “Number of hydroelectricity projects on the Ganga's tributaries created a ticking time bomb in Uttarakhand as the construction involved large-scale deforestation. It triggered soil erosion, making the terrain vulnerable to landslides.” Former Karnataka Minister Shobha Karandlaje tweeted: “It felt like Lord Shiva was dancing in rage, probably angered by damage to ecology in the area.”