Glaciers Turn Black , Rivers Choked With Pollutants – This Is Kashmir25 June 2011
The Hindustan Times
Chandanwari: Not even a single pilgrim has started Himalayan trek to the cave shrine of Amarnath, yet the glacier, better known as Chandanwari glacier, has turned black, courtesy tourists and local picnickers who throng this place to watch the gushing waters of Lidder river. The beauty of the glacier has been mauled by the tourists, the most sought after guests in the Valley, for they enrich economy of the whole place from Srinagar to Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg - major tourist attractions in Kashmir. Pilgrims who would start arriving in a next couple of days would only add to the garbage, and damage the environment, as they have been doing in the past as well. This happens despite the repeated appeals by Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and the state government that they should tread carefully and avoid littering the places through which they trek to reach the shrine. Political leaders and parties here point out to the mess created by pilgrims, accuse them of spoiling the environment, conveniently ignoring that the tourists and the locals are equally responsible. Peoples Democratic Party, the main opposition group had launched a campaign against the duration of the pilgrimage and number of pilgrims, taking the plea that more pilgrims cause more damage to the environment. There was a merit in this argument, as the pilgrimage that passes through mountains and glaciers often ends with much of the damage to the environment. Tonnes of garbage, polythene and excreta dot the mountains and flow into Sind and Lidder rivers, which are the main source of fresh water in the Valley. But that is one part of the story. The other part is equally horrifying. 'Look at nullah at bus stand at Pahalgam, it is full of garbage and the whole of it flows into the river (Lidder),' said Mohammad Ramzan, a resident of Pahalgam, while pointing towards the river and the garbage filled surroundings around bus stand -The picnickers from Srinagar, Anantnag and other places have turned the fresh water rivulet into community toilet. It doesn't cost much to have portable urinals and washrooms. But no one is bothered. 'Ministers come here, stay for few days but never pay attention to the degradation of the environment, they all talk of environment but do nothing,' bemoaned Ghulam Hassan Bhat of Pahalgam. Pass the buck is the mantra here. Each department blames the other, and washes hands off the disaster that is hitting the environment on daily basis here. On Friday evening, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah posted on micro-blogging site Twitter: ' Sad to see the amount of garbage our guests leave behind in places like Shankracharya & Pari Mahal- the two major tourist attractions in the summer capital city of Srinagar. 'We love having you here but don't litter,' he appealed. Some of the locals here feel that the best thing for them is to 'learn to keep our place clean, others would follow.'