It was always a losing battle. The tide has not turned since Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! Even at 3,000 metres above sea-level, despite having the higher ground, once-pristine Auli has fallen to the Big Fat (Non-Resident) Indian Wedding. After all, what chance do the Himalayas have against Rs 200 crore? And, isn’t it the case, as Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said, that the massive five-day affair — in which two scions of the Gupta family, the controversial industrialists from South Africa were married — has put Auli on the map?
A 16-hour drive from Delhi, Auli had hitherto been visited only by a small and dedicated groups of adventure sports enthusiasts and those looking to be as far as possible from the madding crowd. Rawat, who attended the wedding, also remarked that it would help boost tourism in the region. The Uttarakhand High Court, however, was less optimistic — it had ordered the Guptas to deposit Rs 3 crore to ensure that the effects on the fragile ecosystem be mitigated. Quite apart from the vast amounts of plastic used as packaging to transport various perishable and non-perishable items to the alpine meadow, the area is ecologically fragile and the effects of such a massive event are difficult to predict. The five-day party left behind 220 quintals of waste, while the daily garbage from the entire district is usually about 20 quintals. Incidentally, Uttarakhand has a ban on single-use plastics.
Against the potential and actual damage to the environment in a part of the country that is essential to maintaining the delicate balance of nature in the era of climate change, stand the musical stylings of Badshah, performances by Katrina Kaif and Javed Akhtar and a host of others. Against the pristine privacy, natural beauty and laws protecting it, stood the might of consumerism at its height, of an opulent excess only vast wealth can buy. Of course, Auli never stood a chance.