The National Green Tribunal has put a cap on the number of devotees allowed to visit the popular Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir. The number is 50,000 a day now. The tribunal plans to halt pilgrims at Ardhkuwari or Katra town once the limit for the day has reached.
The cap was being implemented as the structure cannot accommodate more than 50,000 people and it carries the risk of damaging the site. The court has also halted all new constructions taking place inside the shrine complex.
The green court also said a new path to the holy place exclusively made for pedestrians and battery-operated cars will now be opened from the 24th of November. It also ruled that no horses or mules shall be allowed on the new route to the shrine and these animals shall be removed slowly from the old path as well.
The NGT has also directed the authorities to impose a fine of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering the roads as well as the bus stop. The tribunal has been taking a close look at the impact of religious tourism on areas close to the shrine. Last year, it had directed the CEO of shrine board to furnish a report giving details of the municipal solid waste and sewage treatment plants installed there.
The cave shrine, one of the most popular in the country, attracts millions of pilgrims every year but the number has dipped in the past few years. The number, however, rebounded a little in 2017, with a footfall of 69,34,377 till October 21, up by 2.70 lakh from the same time last year.