DEHRADUN: A record 43.5 lakh pilgrims have registered for the Char Dham Yatra, of which 24.5 lakh have already completed the holy journey.
As the Yatra sets a new record this year, environmental experts in Uttarakhand have expressed concern over the government’s “achievement,” calling it the “beginning of a big danger.”
“Last year, over 46 lakh pilgrims visited Char Dham and Hemkund Sahib,” Yogendra Gangwar, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board joint director, told TNIE. “This year, the number of registrations has crossed 43.5 lakh in just one-and-a-half months, which clearly indicates that last year’s record will definitely be surpassed,” Gangwar said.
However, environmentalists are quite worried about the rising number of pilgrims.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Magsaysay Award-winning environmentalist and a recipient of Padma Bhushan Chandi Prasad Bhatt said, “There was a time when wearing red clothes was forbidden in this Himalayan region. There was also a ban on speaking loudly and making noise, as there was a risk of the glacier being adversely affected due to the vibration of the noise.”
Expressing concern over the long queues of the pilgrims, Bhatt said, “The ill effects have also been seen on wild animals and flora. Today we are ignoring all these warnings, which resulted in disasters such as the one in 2013.” He said people will ultimately suffer if we continue to treat the Himalayas unfavourably,” said Bhatt, the 90-year-old environmentalist.
Environmentalist and scientist Dev Raghvendra, who is campaigning vigorously to save the Himalayas from pollution, said the government was projecting the arrival of lakhs of pilgrims to the Char Dham Yatra as its achievement, but the hills have only a limited capacity to bear the load. “The government should immediately change its approach towards the pilgrims, otherwise we are again writing a script for the recurrence of a major disaster,” said Raghvendra.
According to the information received, within 45 days of the Yatra that started on April 22, 121 pilgrims from all over the country died. Of these, 58 pilgrims died during the Kedarnath Yatra. Bad weather, severe cold, heart attack and other reasons were cited as the reasons behind the deaths.
As many as 634 people have been injured so far and, 20 mules carrying these devotees have also died. On the Yamunotri route, 470 pilgrims were injured, while 21 horses and mules died. According to the report, most of the pilgrims who died were from Bengal, Maharashtra, UP, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. According to a report, oxygen service was provided to more than 2,500 pilgrims due to breathing problems. All of them were trekking to reach the temple located at an altitude of 11,775 feet.