Home Dehradun Carrying capacity of Char Dhams being ignored under pressure of locals

Carrying capacity of Char Dhams being ignored under pressure of locals

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By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 16 May: In view of the unprecedented rush of pilgrims to Char Dham shrines this year and the resultant traffic jams and other inconveniences to the pilgrims has become a hot topic of discussion in the state in past three days. Due to unprecedented rush of pilgrims, particularly in Yamunotri and Gangotri shrines, the pilgrims were left stranded for long hours along the Yatra route and when to avoid further worsening of the traffic situation, traffic was diverted from Yamunotri route to Gangotri, traffic situation got worsened in Gangotri route as well on Tuesday.
Of course, the government has fixed the numbers of pilgrims for daily darshan at each shrine but the pilgrims are also reported to be proceeding to the Char Dham shrines even before their scheduled date of Yatra as per the registration. It may be recalled that the government has fixed 15,000 pilgrims per day at Badrinath, 12,000 at Kedarnath, 7,000 at Gangotri and 4,000 at Yamunotri. So far 27 lakhs pilgrims have already registered for the Yatra, more than ever before. It may be recalled that the Yatra had commenced on 10 May for Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri and on 12 May for Badrinath.
Social activist Anup Nautiyal has released a Youtube video, where he has raised questions in respect of the carrying capacity and the actual numbers of pilgrims visiting the shrines. He has also drawn attention towards an unusual fact this year. He has reminded that the maximum registration for Char Dham Yatra till May 14, 2024 was for Badrinath, which was 35 percent)  of total Char Dham registrations but the actual number of pilgrims visiting Badrinath in past 3 days (i.e. on 13, 14 and 15 May) has been only 13 percent of the total visitors to Char Dham temples.
Nautiyal says that It has become a standard practice for the political and administrative leadership in Uttarakhand to talk about carrying capacity before the start of Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand. However, it has been a persistent challenge in deciding numbers and finally implementing them on the ground.
Nautiyal points out that in the past three years from 2022 to 2024, the daily arrival numbers have seen a significant spike from the capping of 38,000 per day in the Char Dhams to 58,000 per day without commensurate increase in infrastructure. He also feels that that the government has also wilted under pressure from the local stakeholders, changing or discarding the agreed quota of daily Yatris at the last moment. He claims that this has resulted in extreme chaos and confusion on the ground and it is no wonder that pilgrims are facing so much inconvenience.
He says that in a tourist and pilgrim friendly state like Uttarakhand, understanding carrying capacity principles is crucial for sustainable tourism development. With its fragile ecosystems and limited resources, Uttarakhand must balance the influx of pilgrims with the preservation of its environment and take steps to maintain its cultural integrity.
Many experts feel that by adhering to carrying capacity principles, the state can ensure that tourism growth is managed responsibly, minimizing negative impacts on the environment, local communities, and infrastructure. This involves implementing measures such as visitor limits, waste management strategies, and conservation initiatives to safeguard the region’s biodiversity and maintain a high quality of visitor experience. However, it remains a major question, whether the government has the will to ignore the pressure of the locals and the lure of the showing record success to embrace sustainable tourism practices guided by carrying capacity principles.