Only 50,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu to avoid any untoward incident, the National Green Tribunal directed on Monday.
The green panel also said that a new path to the shrine exclusively for pedestrians and battery-operated cars will be opened from November 24.
The NGT directed 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.
It also directed the authorities to impose a fine (environment compensation) of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering the roads as well as the bus stop at the nearby Katra town.
The NGT bench headed by chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar made it clear that if the number of pilgrims exceeds the prescribed 50,000 cap, they will be stopped at Ardhkuwari or Katra town, considering that the Vaishno Devi Bhawan structure cannot accommodate more than 50,000 persons.
The green panel’s directions came during the hearing of a plea filed by an activist 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.
The petitioner had expressed concern over the “pollution and danger to public health” caused by indiscriminate use of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys, to carry pilgrims and goods from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple.
The directions came while NGT was hearing a plea filed by activist Gauri Maulekhi seeking to remove horses and mules from the path to the shrine, saying it was dangerous for the pedestrians, especially the senior citizens.
“The new path which was constructed for Rs 40 crore should be positively opened to public by November 24. No further time will be granted and, in default, appropriate action will be taken against the concerned authorities.,” it said.