Uttarakhand Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra piles garbage on alpine pastures

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Dehra Dun : The successful conduct of the just concluded Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra may have come as shot in the arm to tourism in Uttarakhand, but sadly it has also sent a message that the state government, has not learnt any lesson from the devastating tragedy in the Kedarrnath region last year and not paid any heed to conserving and maintaining the fragile environment in this small hill state.

The ‘bugyals’ (alpine pastures) were at the receiving end as the large number of pilgrims set up tents and threw all waste, turning them into garbage dumps. According to reports the worst impact of the yatra was on the Bedini ‘bugyal’, situated at an elevation of 3,354 metres (11,004 ft) in Chamoli district, which is visited by a number of tourists during the summer months because of the varied colours and diversified splendour of nature.

This scenic ‘bugyal’ pasture is on the way to Roopkund and is close to Wan village. Trisul, the 7120 metre high peak and Nanda Ghunti are clearly visible from here.

Crowded Bedini ‘bugyal Nand Jaat Yatra 2014

Nand Jaat Yatra 2014

Bedini bugyal is a vast green meadow that is adorned with blooms of a wide range of species. There is a small lake named Vaitarani (Bedini Kund), situated amidst the meadow. The rich flora of the area includes ‘Brahm Kamal’ or Sauseurea Obyallata, which is offered to the deities in the temples in the higher reaches of this small hill state.

Reports claim that the alpine meadow is today completely devastated because of the hundreds of tents that were put up to accommodate the large number of pilgrims, VIPs, police and para-military personnel amongst others deployed by the state government. Plastic bottles and plastic and thermocole plates and other garbage, most of it non bio-degradable, lies littered all over the once pristine and beautiful region.

It is sad that though a sum of Rs 100 crores was spent on the yatra, not even one percent of this amount was  earmarked for maintaining the fragile environment of the region and ensuring that the garbage that will be generated by the large number of people at the ‘bugyal’ is taken care of. Environmentalists of the state are sore of the fact that though the chief minister and other officials are all praise for the safe conduct of the Nanda Devi Raj Jat, not one has said anything of the garbage that is littered along the landscape on the yatra route.

They said that ideally, all the persons who had come should have been asked to carry small bags in which they should have carried back all the plastic and other garbage that was littered in the ‘bugyal’, but the planners of the yatra gave no thought in this direction as the fragile environment of the state in general and in the higher reaches in particular seems to be no one’s baby.

Reports appearing in a vernacular daily painted a grim picture of the sad state in which the Bedini ‘bugyal’ has been left after the yatra. “The fresh grass that appears after the snow melts in the region has been trampled to oblivion and one can see nothing but mud, dirt and garbage where earlier there was a carpet of green. Trenches had been dug round the tents to prevent rain water from seeping into them, and they have neither been filled up nor leveled leaving the entire alpine pasture in a sad shape”, the report reads.

Chief minister Harish Rawat while taking credit for the successful completion of the yatra was quiet on the literal “rape” of the Bedini ‘bugyal’. “In 2000 just 3000 people undertook the Nanda Devi Raj Jat and there were a dozen deaths, but this year there were 50,000 people and not a single tragedy, which speaks of the efficacy in the conduct of the yatra and sends a strong message that this small hill state is completely safe for tourists after the tragedy that hit the upper reaches last year”, he said.

While he did not utter a word on how and who will clear the garbage that has been piled at the Bedini ‘bugyal’ and what efforts will be made to restore it to its pristine glory, his cabinet colleague Dinesh Aggarwal, who holds the forest portfolio, said that forest department would be assisting the district administrations in disposing off the garbage lying on the route of the yatra and also the camping sites in the ‘bugyals’.

However, he did not spell out when and how the massive exercise would be undertaken and whether any funds had been allocated for the purpose. It is doubtful that the forest department, which is short of staff and funds will have the wherewithal, including manpower, to undertake the exercise on its own. It requires deployment of mules to carry the garbage from the ‘bugyals’ to road heads and trucks to ferry them to dumping sites. This too has to be done in a hurry before the winter snows become an excuse for not clearing the garbage.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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