Environmental Impacts of Tourism in Katra Town (J&K)
Anita Sharma1 and Anil. K. Raina2
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Tourism is one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors in the global economy and has significant environmental, cultural, social and economic effects, both positive and negative. Tourism affects the environment of an area either directly or indirectly. The quality of the environment, both natural and man-made, is essential to tourism. But tourism, if unplanned and unregulated can be extremely harmful to the environment because tourism and environment have a very complex and interdependent relationship. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir also, tourism is the largest retail industry. Pilgrimage tourism to Katra town constitutes an important component of total tourism in J&K and has contributed significantly to the growth and development of Katra town, base camp of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. The number of tourists/pilgrims to the Shrine is increasing with each passing year. Presently, 30,000- 35,000 pilgrims visit the town every day, on an average. But this increasing number of tourist is directly or indirectly influencing the environment of the town. It has put enormous pressures and lead to impacts such as soil erosion, increased pollution, waste generation, natural habitat loss and strains on water resources. Many of these impacts are linked with the construction of general infrastructure such as roads and airports and of tourism facilities, including resorts, hotels, restaurants, shops etc. Therefore, the present paper aims to highlight the possible environmental impacts arising from the construction and further development of facilities for tourism and associated activities and to describe measures to avoid or minimise damage to the environment.