For nature's sake
In an essential bid to combat the pollution pervading shrines in our country, the NGT on Wednesday declared the Amarnath shrine as a 'silence zone', prohibiting the chanting of 'mantras' or 'jayakaras' along with the ringing of bells in the premises. Located in the sensitive caves of the south Kashmir Himalayas, Amarnath is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimage spots for the Hindus. Vulnerable to tectonic movement leading to avalanches and landslides, this region witnesses over two lakh pilgrims, each year, who religiously make their way up the difficult terrain to catch a glimpse of the ice stalagmite resembling the Shiva Linga. The NGT also said that infrastructural support would be provided for pilgrims to receive a better view while lockers would also be set up, some distance away, to store valuables and mobile phones. Hailed by environmental activists, this move is essential, given the growing population visiting shrines each year and the sensitive ecosystem amid which the shrine rests. The Kedarnath devastation of 2013 was an outcome of an environmental collapse propelled by growing infrastructure and repeated abuse of the ecosystem of the region that had compromised upon the safety of the entire area. Over 5200 people had lost their lives in the violent flash floods and over 4000 villages had been destroyed. One of the worst disasters in contemporary times, the catastrophe is still afresh in living memory. In this backdrop, when we have already witnessed a collapse of one of our most venerated pilgrimage spots, the move to declare the Amarnath shrine as a silence zone is indeed a harbinger for a safer future. It carefully nurtures the requirements of nature which can never be swept under the demands of human civilisation. It is essential we realise that nature is, in a sense, the true God, who will not abide by the whims of human desires and whose choices and predicaments reign over our actions. Our country holds a diverse ecosystem and it is essential that we preserve every element of that system in utmost piety. The vibrations of bells and chants are a precursor that causes the erosion of rocks and gradually gives way to landslides and avalanches. A disaster prevented is always more valuable than a disaster in need of urgent management. Early steps will not only protect Amarnath's surroundings but also ensure that the site is preserved for the generations to come. We must create a sustainable society that is not only beneficial for us but also for our children and the future that is yet to tread this world. For this, the protection of our pristine environment is a prime objective.