Every year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across India visit to the Amarnath Cave Shrine, to pay homage to the Hindu god, Lord Shiva, situated in the Kashmir valley at 1400 feet above sea level. Last year, around 400 thousand pilgrims visited the shrine last year.
The last year devastation caused by rains and flash floods in northern state of Uttrakhand has brought it in sharp focus as the environmentalists fear that the increased flow of pilgrims to the ecologically fragile areas could spell doom for the environment and could lead to devastation.
Tones of solid waste, left overs of langars (Community kitchens) and non-biodegradable items are directly thrown on the roadsides and the meadows by the pilgrims, resulting in degradation to the local ecology. It is polluting nearby rivers and environment. More than 200 pilgrims had died due to the devastating natural calamity in 1996. But even that failed to wake up the authorities.
Experts say that if the rate of receding of glaciers continues at the current pace, there will be water shortage not only in Kashmir but also in other parts of south Asia which depend on the rivers waters of Kashmir. A Kashmiri journalist, Imran Shah, visited the pilgrimage area of Sonamarg recently and brought these pictures.