Eco-disaster in the offing as GDA dumps waste unscientifically
This world famous ski-resort in North Kashmir is fast turning into a garbage dump, with tons of solid waste generated here being dumped in a nearby forest. Experts warn that if unscientific dumping of garbage is not immediately halted, it could lead to eco-disaster in Gulmarg.
With over 5000 tourists visiting the ski-resort every day, at least 131.16 metric tons of solid waste is generated annually. Authorities are dumping the waste in a forest along the Outer Circular Road here, much to the chagrin of visitors
A spot visit to the area showed tons of solid waste including leftover food, tin cans and non-biodegradable polythene and plastic bottles dumped in various areas of the forest along OCR. With increase in temperature, a pungent smell emanating from the garbage dumps has engulfed the entire area.
Heaps of garbage in various areas, including roads leading to Gulmarg Gondola and Children’s Park, cause immense inconvenience to tourists. “We came here to enjoy the natural beauty but the sight of garbage littered at prime spots has spoiled our visit. It is ironical that the state authorities have failed to ensure proper sanitation here,” said a group of tourists from New Delhi, pointing towards garbage dumped near Gondola.
Locals said the garbage dumps attract wild animals including bears and leopards, thus endangering human lives. “Few days ago, we spotted a bear rummaging through garbage dumped outside the Gondola entrance. During evenings, tourists are scared to venture out,” they said.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who heads the Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA) Board, had in 2011 underscored the need for cleanliness of Gulmarg. “We have to transfer the natural resources God has bestowed upon us to the next generation in a better and preserved form to make the tourism sustain and continue percolating economic benefits to the people in an unabated manner,” Omar had said while chairing the GDA’s 7th board meeting.
The CM had also approved installation of an incinerator to scientifically dispose of garbage generated in Gulmarg. The GDA had entrusted the project estimated at Rs 2.49 crore to the Mechanical Engineering department (MED).
Sources said though the MED procured the incinerator plant last year, the GDA has failed to start the allied civil work.
Environmentalists maintain that dumping of garbage in the forest can be detrimental for fragile eco-system of Gulmarg. “Open dumping of solid waste in forests can severely affect the ecosystem, leading to air and water pollution and subsequently became a health hazard. Government must put in place scientific measures to dispose the garbage,” said DrShakeelRomsu, Head Department of Earth Sciences at University of Kashmir.
“The situation in eco-fragile Gulmarg can lead to eco-disaster,” said noted geoscientist Haji Abdul Majid Butt.
Environmental lawyer, NadeemQadri, said dumping of garbage in forest is blatant violation of J&K Forest Act and Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2000 under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
“The Supreme Court in Goa Foundation case has already directed the Centre and State Governments to declare 10 kilometre area from National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuary as eco-sensitive zone, but Jammu and Kashmir government has failed to protect and conserve the Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary,” said Qadri.
Locals and hoteliers accused the GDA and Municipal Committee of Gulmarg of being instrumental in “vandalisation” of the place. “Despite collecting lakhs of rupees as toll tax and sanitation fee, the GDA and Notified Area Committee Tangmarg have failed to provide scientific waste management in the resort,” they said.
GDA officials could not be contacted for comments.
Executive Officer Notified Area Committee Tangmarg, Mateen Ahmad said due to code of conduct, the tenders for outsourcing sanitation of Gulmarg could not be floated. “Presently, the GDA and Municipal Committee undertake the sanitation of the resort,” he said, refusing to comment further.
THE EIA REPORT
In its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Gulmarg, the Centre of Research for Development (CORD) at the University of Kashmir had in 2011 pointed out damage to resort’s eco-system due to unscientific dumping of garbage and suggested measures to check the problem.
“There is no specific disposal site in the resort area. The open dumping and subsequent open burning of the dumped waste could produce harmful effects on the ecology of the area and also on the health and hygiene of the people. The horse dung is also posing a problem in the resort area as most of the roads remain littered with this solid waste, contributing to the unpleasant landscape and roads,” the report stated.
The EIA had recommended putting in place an efficient Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) for the management of solid waste in the area, with particular focus on the waste prevention, recycling and composting and combustion and disposal in properly designed, constructed and managed landfills.