The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday directed the authorities to restrict the number of pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir to 50,000 a day, to avoid any mishap.
The Tribunal also ordered the opening of the new path for pedestrians from November 24. The new path for pedestrians and battery-operated vehicles was constructed at a cost of Rs 40 crore.
While directing the removal of mules or horses gradually from the old path as well, the NGT has asked Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board to prepare a rehabilitation plan to replace animals with battery-operated cars.
The bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also asked the authorities to impose a fine of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering the roads as well as the bus stop in the nearby Katra town.
“Stop the pilgrims at Ardhkuwari or Katra town if the total number exceeds 50,000,” Justice Swatanter Kumar said, observing that the Bhawan or the peak where the shrine is located, would not be able to accommodate more than 50,000 people a day.
Directing to form a committee to check excessive traffic in Katra town, the Tribunal also asked the authorities to stop all construction activities around the Bhawan.
The green panel’s directions came during the hearing of a plea filed by an activist seeking directions to stop the use of horses and ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine premises in Jammu, prompting the green panel to seek response from the government on the issue.
The petitioner had expressed concern over the “pollution and danger to public health” caused by indiscriminate use of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys, to carry pilgrims and goods from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple.