SRINAGAR, Aug 19: The Jammu and Kashmir government has dismissed as baseless media reports that Supreme Court had issued an order to the state government for construction of a macadamised road to Amarnath cave shrine, 3880 meters high in Kashmir Himalayas.
The statement comes in the backdrop of concern raised by Kashmir’s civil society groups and senior separatist leader and Hurriyat Conference Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who had termed the plan as an “environmental disaster” in view of the area fragile ecology.
On Sunday senior National Conference leader and Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather hurriedly called a press conference and said, “We have no plans to construct any road nor have we received any such directive from the Supreme court, ” he 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, falls under the Thajiwas Wildlife Sanctuary.