Kousarnag yatra a disaster in making, say members of Assembly’s environment panel

SRINAGAR: A legislator who had headed J&K Assembly’s environmental panel till last year described the Kausar Nag yatra not only a major environmental threat but also likened it to “religious aggression”.
National Conference MLC and member of the House Committee on Environment Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri said that the pilgrimage will not only pose a major threat to the crystal-clear lake but will spoil the ecology of the area.
“Kausar Nag is a crystal clear water body and there is no history of any pilgrimage to the lake. I won’t be hesitant to say that starting a pilgrimage to the area is a religious hegemony on part of some communal elements. The yatra to the ecologically fragile area is a disaster in making,” Veeri old Kashmir Reader.
“In Gangotri and Kedarnath every measure is being taken to save the environment. The number of pilgrims has been regulated there but in case of Amarnath pilgrimage there is no such regulation with thousands of pilgrims visiting the shrine daily with no regard for the environment,” he said.
He added that it was his opposition to the Kausar Nag yatra that last year that he bagged only 32 migrant votes in assembly elections.
“I used to get more than 400 migrant votes earlier but last year when I opposed the yatra some people who want to promote it on the lines of Amarnath yatra showed the newspaper cuttings to the migrants while campaigning for votes,” he said.
Another member of the committee and MLA Hom Shalibugh,Abdul Majid Bhat (Larmi) said that he will “aggressively raise the issue in the meeting of the committee members” scheduled in the next few days.
“We respect the religious sentiments of our Hindu brethren. But one thing is clear that the yatra to Kausar Nag will lead to environmental degradation in the area. We will also put forth our suggestions to the government with regard to the move,” Larmi told Kashmir Reader.
Veeri asked the PDP-led government not to allow vandalism of Valley’s environment in the name of tourism and pilgrimage.
On Tuesday, BJP legislator from Reasi constituency Ajya Nada flagged off the yatra, which sparked off controversy and protests last year.
Pilgrims from Reasi district in Jammu have been visiting the lake for the past few years. Last year, a few Hindus, including Kashmiri Pandits, attempted to embark on the yatra from Kulgam district, but local Muslims demonstrated against, saying that more than a religious function the ‘yatra’ is aimed at laying religious claim to a virgin tourist spot.
The protesters and nomads in the vicinity of the lake had said they had never heard of any yatra to the lake in their lifetime or before.
The 5×2.5km lake is a popular trekking destination visited by Valleyites.
The protesters had drawn parallels with Amarnath Yatra, which was a low-key affair two decades ago but has over the years become a controversial annual ritual, with environmentalists raising concerns over the damage caused by the visit of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the fragile ecosystems en route to the cave shrine.
An official spokesman described the beginning of the ‘Kausar Nag yatra’ as “historical”.