Environmental court pulls up Amarnath Shrine Board
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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday rapped the Amarnath Shrine Board for non-compliance of directions issued by the Supreme Court in 2012 and asked the Board what steps had been taken during all these years to protect environment and provide infrastructure facilities to pilgrims.

The NGT appointed a committee to look at environment protection during the annual pilgrimage.

The committee will also look into the infrastructure for pilgrims at the Amarnath Shrine.

Asking why extra shops and open toilets were not removed, the green court suggested construction of eco-friendly toilets on the route.

“You have allowed shops on path near the shrine. There are no proper facilities for toilets. Do you even know how humiliating this is for women. Why have you not provided proper infrastructural facilities for pilgrims. You are giving priority to commercial activities over pilgrims. This is unfair. The sanctity of the shrine has to be maintained,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

The Green Panel formed a committee of experts headed by additional secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to submit action plan on providing facilities to the pilgrims. The committee  will have officials from the Jammu and Kashmir government and Army officers as its members.

The bench said the Committee shall submit report on aspects like providing a proper path and declaring the cave as silent zone while maintaining cleanliness in area near the shrine after inspection. It also asked the Committee to consider installing eco- friendly toilets in the area.

The NGT also directed the Shrine Board to submit a status report, by the first week of December, on the compliance of directions issued by the apex court in 2012. Amarnath cave shrine is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism.

The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. The directions came while hearing the plea filed by environment activist Gauri Maulekhi.

The NGT’s directive comes days after it capped the number of pilgrims at Vaishno Devi shrine in J&K at 50,000 a day in response to a petition on environmental concerns and danger to human lives due to lack of facilities.

 

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