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    Himalayas face disaster due to unregulated pilgrimage and construction activities

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    Experts warn that the increasing number of pilgrims visiting Uttarakhand in northern India is posing a serious risk to the Himalayan region. Environmentalists point to road expansion projects and unregulated construction as factors contributing to the fragility of the area. Reports of landslides are on the rise and people in the town of Joshimath are being forced to move back to their homes due to large cracks caused by subsidence. The Uttarakhand government recently lifted the cap on daily pilgrim visits for the Char Dham Yatra, which is worrying environmental activist Atul Sati.

    The heavy influx of thousands of pilgrims per day, along with more vehicles and construction in the area, is threatening the ecological and biological diversity of the region and putting lives at risk. The generation of waste from plastic and animal excreta is also an issue. The Char Dham project, which is a road project connecting four important pilgrim towns, has been described as an “assault on the Himalayas”. An environmental committee recommended limiting road widths to 5.5 meters but the Supreme Court allowed it to be widened to 10 meters.

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    Road widening can destabilize the mountain area and make it prone to landslides and sinking. The construction of dams or barrages for hydropower projects can also disturb the natural hydrologic equilibrium of slopes with rivers. Experts call for adequate measures to address environmental and safety concerns.

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