PAHALGAM: Along the main road outside the Amarnath Yatra base camp at Nunwan, Pahalgam, a number of recently erected signboards can be seen reading ‘Don’t pollute Water’ and ‘Water is our Life’. The signboards calling for the preservation of the waters of the Lidder river have been installed by the Shri Amaranth Shrine Board (SASB) which conducts the annual yatra to Amarnath cave.
However, a few metres from the signboards, several makeshift toilets have been erected on a green patch of land on the river banks which put a big question mark on the seriousness of not only the SASB authorities but also of the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) and municipal officials about preserving the water body and the area’s fragile environs. At least eight toilet points have been erected near a small fresh water drain that passes through the green patch, which the PDA has named ‘Buffer Zone Park’, while another four toilet points have been set up on the Buffer Zone’s margins. The drain passing through empties into the Lidder river.
A few years ago, the PDA installed chain fencing along the river’s edge. The nodal agency spent lakhs on it; the development of the tourist spot was aimed at saving the water body from pollution.
Locals and environmental activists have questioned the callousness of the authorities tasked with the development and cleanliness of the resort while preserving the area’s environs. “They have erected signboards calling for the conservation of the water body, and a few meters away, they are themselves discrediting the same by erecting latrines on the Lidder bank. Since the CRPF men have dug small trenches behind these toilet points, the sewage will overflow even in case of minor showers and will finally empty into the Lidder,” said local social activist Mushtaq Pahalgami.
One wonders, he said, how could the PDA and the municipal authorities allow latrines to come up at such a scenic spot.
Another resident, Ghulam Nabi, said that locals have no objection to latrines being erected inside the base camp for the pilgrims’ use, but CRPF men on Yatra duty cannot erect them at spots close to the water body.
The PDA Chief Executive Officer did not attend repeated calls from Kashmir Reader. However, a lower-rung PDA official said that the latrines had been erected by CRPF.
“We always object to or stop any such move or activity that can cause harm to the environment. But sometimes we are helpless. Only a few months ago, CRPF men constructed a concrete toilet close to the bank of the Lidder near Mamal bridge. We raised the issue with the concerned CRPF officials and virtually begged them to stop work, but they did not listen at all,” the official said.
He said that the construction of toilets at the spot has become a point of criticism for the PDA from everyone, but “we are helpless”.