Border tourism faces a challenge of indiscriminate waste disposal

Indiscriminate disposal of waste by visitors has given rise to environmental challenges and threatens the rich biodiversity of the tourist spots in the border areas of north Kashmir.Keran, Bangus, Tangdhar, Gurez and Uri, located along the Line of Control (LoC) were previously cross-border shelling hotspots between the armies of India and Pakistan. Now, as the guns have fallen silent, these areas have become tourist hotspots.The locals of these areas while talking to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) said a significant amount of waste is thrown by tourists in open spaces.Keran in Kupwara stands out as a famous tourist destination where the surge in tourist activity has brought forth substantial challenges, particularly regarding environmental safety.The local residents told KNO that tourists are discarding waste along the Kishanganga riverbanks. They said the tourism and other concerned departments must “wake up”.“It is regrettable that tourists have selected various dumping sites. They should either responsibly carry their waste upon departure or notify us about it so that we could properly dispose of the garbage,” said Suhail Ahmad, a homestay owner.However, the tourists have complained of the absence of basic amenities at the location, particularly the lack of dustbins. They said either proper dustbins should be set up for the convenience of visitors, or alternatively, prominent warning signs should be installed to discourage any form of waste disposal.“While I have observed several conscientious visitors who carry their waste back with them upon departure, it is disheartening to see many others thoughtlessly discarding litter, including used plastic water bottles, to the side,” said Syed Mujtaba, a visitor from Budgam.Many young people arrive with tents, arrange campfires, host parties, and unfortunately leave behind a trail of bottles and food waste on the premises, said Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Dawar, Gurez.“There is an absence of an effective solid waste management system in the region. This deficiency has posed a serious threat of pollution to most of the tourist zones. The indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste occurs haphazardly, with these discarded materials making their way to villages and eventually finding their way into water bodies,” he explained.Rakesh, a visitor from Delhi, said, “I came here to revel in the beauty of Gurez’s hills, but what troubled me are the piles of trash scattered around. People need to realise their responsibility of preserving nature.”Describing a similar situation in the Bangus and Uri areas, Priya Sethi, another tourist from Delhi, expressed her dismay at the “disheartening” practice of discarding solid plastic waste in the open spaces of “these beautiful locations”.While solid waste management is a significant challenge, a small step that tourists and trekkers can take is to carry their plastic waste and food packet wrappers with them, which will ensure the cleanliness of the natural trails, said an environmentalist.He said the administration should develop a comprehensive plan for the proper disposal of solid waste in these areas to ensure their upkeep and cleanliness

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