15:28 GMT01 August 2021
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    The Himalayan states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are popular vacation destinations for Indians. In recent days however, these regions have witnessed large crowds of tourists, leading to fears of a COVID outbreak.

    Administrative authorities in India's Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh states have reportedly started imposing fines of up to INR 5,000 ($67 approx.) as well as a week-long jail sentence for anyone found violating COVID protocols. 

    Iva Ashish Srivastava, the District Magistrate of Uttarakhand's Tehri Garhwal region, has announced that only 50 people can enter the premises of Mussorie city's famous Kempty Falls at one time.

    Each batch of people can spend no longer than half an hour inside the waterfall region, Shrivastava said while revealing that check-posts are being set up in the region to monitor tourist activities. 

    The decision comes after videos showing several people bathing together in the Kempty Falls, flouting social distancing, emerged online.

    Similarly, the state administration of Himachal Pradesh has warned people of legal consequences if they are found loitering around without masks or found at mass gatherings. 

    ​Activists in the States have also expressed concerns over a sudden rise in pollution and garbage in the regions that reached the mountain states along with the tourists.

    Environmentalist Anoop Nautiyal from Uttarakhand told Sputnik that the travellers are not only bring fears of a COVID outbreak, they also litter and destroy nature. 

    "They come here to enjoy the peace and fresh air that comes with being close to the nature, but they bring along plastic and pollution to the regions. It is heartbreaking to see garbage thrown around. People can at least put dustbins installed around to good use. The authorities must ensure that cleanliness is maintained in the region during these times of tourism influx," Nautial said.  

    ​Many people in India, after having struggled with COVID as well as brutal summers, are heading to the mountains, forests, and beaches for some relief.

    Chairing a high-level meeting on 8 July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also told his Council of Ministers that watching "people without masks at crowded places is not a pleasant sight". He told the ministers that the photos and videos of people crowding should instil a sense of fear among people.

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