Big, fat weddings raise green concerns in Himalayas

Tents being set up at the lavish wedding ceremony site at Auli. The two marriages belonging to two sons of businessmen Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta are on June 20 and June 22.

In a controversial decision, the BJP government of Uttarakhand has permitted holding two extravagant marriage ceremonies costing Rs 200 crore and spanning over a week, at ecologically fragile Auli near Joshimath in the lap of the Himalayas ignoring the red flags raised by the environmentalists.

The weddings are of the two sons of businessmen Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta, who have their empires spread from South Africa to Dubai to India. One of the ceremonies was on June 20 while the second one is scheduled on June 22.

While allowing the two weddings to happen because cancellation at “this belated stage may result in the marriage being called off causing irreparable injury to the family”, the Nainital High Court last week questioned the state government for such “mindless pursuits of holding large scale marriage celebrations at exotic locations.”

The least the state government could do, pointed out the High Court, was to ensure that such mega events didn't result in irreparable environmental degradation of the area.

The Trivendra Singh Rawat government argued in the court that the venue of the wedding, was not a part of the meadows (Bugyals in local language) that enjoy a special conservation status. The nearest meadows is four km away from the site.

“While the venue of the event may not itself be a Bugyal (meadow) it is not known what steps the State government has taken to ensure that the marriage celebrations do not affect the Bugyal, nor has the Joshimath Nagar Palika Parishad issued any directions to ensure that no damage is caused to the Bugyal,” the bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Alok Kumar Verma said in its order. on June 18th.

“Holding of such weddings and events are counter-productive in every sense and irreversibly damaging to the environment. We find no reason why the state government must indulge in such kind of reckless, unmindful, unreasonable, environmentally deleterious and ecologically unsustainable activities in the fragile Himalayan landscape,” the activists said in their petition which has been shared with the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.

In two separate orders on June 17th and June 18th, the court has laid out a set of rules for the State government and the Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board to ensure that the big fat wedding won't harm the ecology and environment of the Himalayan locale, which is known for its Alpine meadows and ski facilities.

Two pollution control board officials would be stationed at the wedding venue to check if sundry directives issued by various agencies as well as the Uttarakhand High Court are being followed by the Gupta family. The permission for creating a separate helipad for the guests has been turned down by the court.

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