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'Mountains of waste' at Char Dham as footfall rises

Dehradun: Resumption of the Char Dham yatra this year in Uttarakhand after a two-year Covid "break" has resulted in huge footfall of pilgrims from across the country. And they are leaving behind what many in the Uttarakhand administration are calling "a mountain of waste" for the locals to cope with.
The solid waste generation at just Kedarnath, one of the four dhams, has increased from 5,000 kg to 10,000 kg per day, as per officials.
Kedarnath hosts 2.3 lakh pilgrims in the last 15 days
It was just about half in the pre-Covid days. We're talking about 2019, said an official. "In 2022, it has doubled. In fact, in just the past 15 days, Kedarnath alone has hosted 2.35 lakh pilgrims."
About 32 lakh pilgrims visited Char Dham in 2019; it was 27.69 lakh in 2018, and 23.24 lakh in 2017, a steady rise. This year, the first fortnight alone has witnessed 6.71 lakh pilgrims thronging the dhams, the official said. The yatra was hugely affected due to Covid in the last two years, he added. Supervisor of cleanliness drive at Kedarnath, Ashok Singhania, said, "We are digging seven feet deep pits and burying small biscuit packets and tobacco wrappers near Gaurikund while other wastes are being sent to plains for proper disposal."
Rajkumar Nautiyal, superintendent of Char Dham Mandir Samiti in Kedarnath, said, "At this rate of footfall if the weather remains favorable, the overall number of pilgrims will certainly surpass earlier records."
They have reason to be fearful. Daily waste generation at Badrinath, which is an Alpine zone, has gone up to 4,000 kg/day since the opening of its portal this year. It was below 3,000 kg/day in 2019.
"At Badrinath, since plastic is not allowed, pilgrims are not carrying sheets to cover themselves. But plastic water bottles remain a major challenge," said Sunil Purohit, executive officer, Badrinath.

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