Bears lose sleep as partying Gulmarg despoils forest tracts

Abdul Mohamin
Gulmarg: Manmade vagaries in Gulmarg may be buried deep under snow today, but nature has sought a way to betray what humans would like to hide.
Long accustomed to feeding on huge untended mounds of garbage steadily growing around the Meadow of Flowers, a hibernating species of black bear found in outlying forests have given up their winter sleep.
Herds of the bear and other wild animals can be seen foraging in Gulmarg’s peripheries, sniffing, pawing, and digging to unearth what they have come to regard as the most dependable stocks of food.
A “thriving” all-season tourist spot, often described by government brochures as a “world famous ski resort,” Gulmarg’s caretakers appear to have literally turned into its undertakers.
The hundreds of tons of garbage and leftovers produced by the Meadow’s busy hotels, huts and eateries simply find their way to the forest edge.
With ski partying at fever pitch, the dumps are steadily growing in size.
Government officials, particularly from the Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA), supposed to devise and enforce safe and scientific disposal of waste say that the project is being “aggressively pursued.”
As if Gulmarg had emerged as a major tourist destination only yesterday.
The Wildlife warden for north Kashmir, Abdul Rauf Zargar, admits that accumulating garbage had altered the natural behavior of the black bear, and stresses that it was a cause for concern.
“They (garbage dumps) are an easy source of food, and bears can smell them from as far away as 12 km,” Zargar says. “They have become dependent on them.”
“And it is not just bears. The dumps attract monkeys, crows, and dogs as well. And there are chances that leopards too may follow suit,” Zargar says, voicing disquiet about possible human-animal conflict.
Abdul Mannan Khan, an engineer with the GDA, says that a site for disposing Gulmarg waste scientifically had already been identified.
“We are awaiting the nod from the State Pollution Control Board to start work,” he says.
Obviously, Gulmarg officials have so far had the “nod” from the Pollution Control Board to turn the Meadow into a High Altitude Garbage Dump, a sight tourists from around the world are dying to see.