The annual five-day Girnar Parikrama (circumambulation) begins in Junagarh on November 23 but what is concerning is the possible plastic pollution in the sanctuary area like last year, in which environment activists had collected around five tonnes of plastic wastes at the end of the five days.
Devotees who come to the ritual throw plastic wastes indiscriminately. About 60% of plastic wastes are tobacco wrappers and the rest are water bottles and snack wrappers. There are scores of vendors selling plastic water bottles and snack packets on the parikrama route that make them easily accessible to the visitors.
The parikrama is a 36-km route and last year more than 12 lakh devotees took part in it. This year, the same number of devotees are expected to come.
The parikrama starts from Kartik Agiyaras and ends on Kartik Purnima. This is a prohibited area and people are allowed here only during the parikarma period. The forest department prepares the roads for devotees and allows district administration and akhadas to put in place basic facilities and a charity kitchen for the devotees.
Recently, Gujarat high court had suggested to the state authorities to consider a ban on disposable plastic and find an alternative to plastic bottles for pilgrims visiting the temples on Girnar hilltop.
This year, NGOs and forest department have put up dustbins. The district administration and forest department have put up sign boards asking people not to litter inside the jungle and have planned to provide them with cloth bags. Sign boards showing the route have been put up and water tanks have been been provided on the route so that people do not use plastic bottles for water.
Volunteers have also been deputed to collect plastic bags from the devotees at the entry point and give them cloth or paper bags.