Jammu and Kashmir government on Sunday dismissed media reports that the Supreme Court has issued any order to the state government for construction of a macadamised road to Amarnath cave shrine, 3880 meters high in south Kashmir Himalayas passing through snow glaciers and ice cold waters.
After concern among Kashmir civil society over the environmental ramifications of such a move, senior National Conference leader And State Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather hurriedly called a press conference to assuage the fears of environmentalists.
“The media reports quoting a Supreme Court order to construct road to the cave is wrong. No such order has been issue,” Rather said.
The cabinet minister informed that Supreme Court formed an expert committee on July 20 to ascertain the cause of loss of lives during the pilgrimage besides taking stock of the infrastructure to the cave. “The apex court has just raised some queries like what was being done to protect environment as well as the lives of people, infrastructure en-route and how government was allowing seven times more tourists than the registered pilgrims,” he said.
“What the committee has recommended, we will come to know on September 10, the next date of hearing,” he informed.
Civil society groups of Kashmir on Saturday had expressed their serious concern after the media reported that ‘Supreme Court has directed J&K government for undertaking civil engineering works leading to construction of roads and other infrastructure’ in the environmentally fragile Himalayan habitat around the Amarnath cave shrine.
The environmentalists, while sharing the government’s concern to ensure good health and well-being of the intending pilgrims, had urged the governments to conduct the Yatra in accordance with the National Environment Policy, the State Forest Policy and also the Nitish Sengupta Committee recommendations.
They said that a vast population of the Kashmir valley depended on the drinking water that originates from the glaciers around the Amarnath site. The area, through which the current tracks lead to the Amarnath cave in the Sonamarg area, fall under the Thajiwas Wildlife Sanctuary.