With lakhs of pilgrims thronging the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir annually, its management has turned to the latest eco-friendly technology to protect the environment around the cave shrine. The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVSB), which manages the affairs of the shrine in Reasi district, said preservation and conservation of the environment is being given due regard while creating new infrastructure and upgrading logistics for meeting the emerging requirements of the progressively increasing pilgrimage. Over 81.78 lakh pilgrims visited the cave shrine in Trikuta hills last year, registering an increase of about 4.54 lakh pilgrims over 2016. For the first time, bio-sanitation products based on a consortium of different microbes and plant extracts have been introduced, replacing chemical-based reagents for cleaning of toilets, a SMVSB spokesperson said. A new four-storey earthquake-resistant toilet block with modern facilities is under construction in Adhkuwari. With a built-up area of 8,760 sq ft, this toilet block is estimated to cost Rs 1.67 crore and will become functional by the forthcoming Navratras. It will have an elevator and covered sitting area on the rooftop. All the seven toilet blocks on the recently inaugurated Tarakote Marg have also been specially equipped to cater to all segments of pilgrims, including senior citizens and specially abled people, he said. The spokesperson said the board has, inter alia, installed eight modern sewage treatment plants (STPs) and three packaged STPs at different locations in the Bhawan area, Katra, Kakryal and Jammu. All 12 major toilet blocks at Bhawan, which houses the sanctum sanctorum, have been connected to the 3.2 MLD capacity STP, he said. The spokesman said one more STP and three packaged STPs were also being installed at a cost of Rs 3.65 crore this year, which would enable connecting of toilet blocks with stand-alone packaged STPs. He said a phased programme is being implemented for renovation and technological upgradation of all toilet blocks located along the Katra-Bhawan tracks. Renovation and upgradation of all 36 toilet blocks along the tracks have been recently completed at a cost of about Rs 3.5 crore, he said. He said treated water from Katra-based STPs is being used for maintenance of the turf and lawns at the shrine boards sports complex, resulting in saving of 60,000 litres of potable water every day.