Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Himalayan Catastrophe

Kedarnath Shrine -Then   Courtesy:Indian Express

Kedarnath Temple is one of the Holiest Hindu Shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also one among the group of Jyothirlingas in the country. Saints Thirugnanasambandar and Sundarar have sung Thevaram Hymns on the Deity of the Temple way back in the seventh century. The Temple, located at a height of over 11000 feet was worshiped by Pandavas. Adi  Shankara is believed to have revived the Shrine.

Kedarnath Shrine -Now(after the floods)  Courtesy:Indian Express

The unprecedented disaster that struck Uttarkhand had literally swept away many villages. The devastating floods and and landslides made the job of Crisis Management Team which consists of civilian and Military officials difficult. Over 50000 people have been evacuated and many thousands are reported to be stranded. Since the weather continues to be hostile, rescue operations in the flood-ravaged region poses challenge.  Hundreds of bodies were seen carried away by by fast currents on June 17. Many people had to save themselves by clinging to the trees, climbing the nearby hills to stay put for more than two days without food or water. The already "fragile eco-sensitive zone" had to witness a "Himalayan tsunami"

More than a million people come during "Char dham" season that covers Yamunotri,Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. They trek for 14 km from Gauri Kund to reach Kedarnath. Pilgrims staying in some 60 dharmashalas were simply washed away at the onslaught of gushing water and volley of debris  Sparing only the sanctum and the adjoining sections of Kedarnath Temple, most structures in its vicinity had been washed away.

It is true that concerns expressed on soil degradation and disturbance to the natural ecology and destabilisation of hill slopes caused by the construction of hydel projects along the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda had fallen on deaf ears. Indiscriminate tinkering with Nature has caused the calamity. The proposal to remove the buildings and other structures obstructing the natural drainage lines has not been implemented. The environmentalists describe the death and damage as a man-made disaster. Deforestation has already reduced the forest cover of the region by about 30% . It is reported that Himalayan ecosystems have experienced faster rates of warming in the last 100 years and more than the European Alps or other mountain ranges of the world. Anil Joshi, Director of the Himalayan Environment Studies and Conservation Organisation said," Nothing happens in our country before a disaster and after a disaster." Last week's floods have sounded an alarm bell again.

Thousands of villagers in this region earn during the season who line the entire route from Gauri kund to Kedarnath ,selling umbrellas,canes,raincoats,water bottles,snacks etc. They carry the children and the old on their back. These villagers who fall below the poverty line have to wait for the resumption of the yatras. It looks certain that it may take nearly a year to restore the Kedarnath shrine to its past glory. Will the Government and the People take up the restoration work immediately and complete it before the winter so that the "Char Dham" Yatra may restart by next April?   

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