NGT notice to Centre over use of ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine

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New Delhi, Oct 18: An environment activist has moved the National Green Tribunal seeking directions to stop the use of horses and ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine premises in Jammu, prompting the green panel to seek response from the government on the issue.

A bench headed by Justice U D Salvi issued notice to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Jammu and Kashmir government, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and J&K State Pollution Control Board while seeking their reply by October 29.

delhi

The green panel was hearing a plea by Gauri Maulekhi, who expressed concern over the "pollution and danger to public health" caused by indiscriminate use of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys, used to carry pilgrims and goods from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple.

The plea, filed through advocate Aditya Singla, sought directions to ensure that no equines (horses, ponies, mules and donkeys) are used in the region of the Vaishno Devi shrine.

"The large number of growing pilgrims has a direct correlation to the increase in the use of equines employed to carry pilgrims and their luggage to and from the shrine during peak seasons such as Navratras and the holiday season.

"Consequently, large amounts of untreated solid and liquid waste generated by pilgrims are disposed directly into Banganga river.

A large proportion of this waste is generated by the 15,000-20,000 horses, mules and ponies deployed to carry the pilgrims on the 14 km trail to the Mata Vaishno Devi temple," the plea said.

Maulekhi alleged that despite the local authorities' knowledge that these animals are being used in very large numbers, "They have failed to make arrangements in and around the shrine for maintenance of these animals and ensuring that they are free of disease."

PTI

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