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5 years of Kedarnath tragedy: No dent in faith, but pilgrims wary of riverside construction

Five years down the line, Kedar valley that bore the brunt of the flashfloods, looks a different place, courtesy the large scale reconstruction works being carried out on a war footing

dehradun Updated: Jun 15, 2018 22:55 IST
Kalyan Das
Kalyan Das
Hindustan Times, Sonprayag
Uttarakhand News
One thing which remains unchanged is the faith that millions have in the power of Lord Kedarnath.(HT)

More than 6,000 dead and hundreds of hutments and houses washed away. The rain-triggered havoc unleashed in Uttarakhand on June 16, 2013 was unprecedented in the state’s annals. Five years down the line, Kedar valley that bore the brunt of the flashfloods, looks a different place, courtesy the large scale reconstruction works being carried out on a war footing.

One thing which remains unchanged is the faith that millions have in the power of Lord Kedarnath, the faith that drives them to undertake the yatra to the Hindu holy shrine — one of the four that makes Char Dham — year after year. The ongoing yatra that began in late April has already seen more than 5.5 lakh pilgrims visiting the shrine.

Their faith in the temple devoted to Lord Shiva notwithstanding, some pilgrims seem to be wary of the ongoing restoration works near River Mandakini. It was gushing waters of Mandakini fuelled by cloud bursts that had wreaked havoc in 2013.

At Sonprayag that acts like a base camp for the pilgrims who undertake the 18-km trek to the shrine, several rebuilding works have been complted while some are still under way. Majority of Sonprayag was swept away in the flashfloods. Among the structures coming up here is a parking facility for about 450 vehicles and a shopping complex, both near the river.

Trekking upwards holding a stick, 70-year-old Omprakash Dhakad, hailing from Alwar, Rajasthan, believes that that the restoration works, though commendable, still pose a risk.

“This is my first pilgrimage to Kedarnath and I was impressed by the restoration works being carried out. But, I also feel worried as the works being carried out are near to the river. They won’t be able to withstand nature’s fury,” says Dhakad.

Mahesh Sharma, 49, echoes similar sentiments. Sharma, a resident of Kawardha in Chhattisgarh, is visiting Kedarnath for a fourth time. “The government shouldn’t have carried out the construction works near the river. It is wrong and very risky,” he says.

District magistrate, Rudraprayag, Mangesh Ghildiyal, however, seeks to allay the fears. He says the works are being done after due diligence and as per the rules and regulations.

“All the restoration works near Mandakini are of high quality keeping in mind the tragedy of 2013. Taking lessons, precautions have also been taken under which a strong protection wall is being constructed to withstand the flooded flow of Mandakini, if any. It would be completed by October this year,” says Ghildiyal.

Doon-based environmentalist Anil Joshi feels otherwise. He says despite the claims of officials what needs to be understood is that Himalayas are fragile and they need to be handled sensibly. “Everyone involved in the reconstruction works should ask whether we have learnt lessons from the past. Where will this concrete wall go if another disaster happens?” Joshi asks.

First Published: Jun 15, 2018 22:54 IST