Tag Archives: Uttarakhand

Garhwal Diaries 10 – Enroute Rishikesh

The drive was long from Sitapur to Rishikesh. It was Monsoons so splashes of rains accompanied us every now and then. And then there were landslides. Yes. Here are a few snaps:

IMG_0315Snapshots on my way

IMG_0319Random shots

IMG_0323Landslide captured from the car

IMG_0322A closer look at the landslide

IMG_0331Road blocked due to landslide

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Uttarakhand Floods: Nature’s Fury or Have We Dug Our Own Graves? – Part III

In the third part of the Uttarakhand Flood series, Chandan Das discusses how hydel projects have been undertaken without assessing the environmental impact.

The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours. –William Wordsworth

Hydro power

HYDEL ENERGY PROJECTS: “Energy” Wasted!!

Remember how the Ganga warriors had claimed earlier that the Central government was not serious about keeping its assurance for stopping the work on hydroelectric projects on Alaknanda and Mandakini, the two main tributaries of the Ganga?  Around 220 hydroelectric projects on the Mandakini and the Alaknanda have been sanctioned!! 200?? Two 20km tunnels are being built to divert these rivers for hydel projects and constant blasting of the river banks has affected the local ecology. Interestingly, they meet at Rudraprayag, the epicenter of today’s devastation. These projects have been allowed without cumulative environment impact assessment on the region. With these projects come hotels, residential and commercial buildings and roads. This piecemeal approach has just raised the spectre of the gold rush. Scientific studies indicate that at the current rates of deforestation, the total forest cover in the Indian Himalaya will be reduced from 84.9 % (of the value in 1970) in 2000 to no more than 52.8 % in 2100. Dense forest areas, on which many forest taxa critically depend, would decline from 75.4% of the total forest area in 2000 to just 34 % in 2100, which is estimated to result in the extinction of 23.6 % of taxa restricted to the dense Himalayan forests.

I mean it’s like creating a ticking time bomb as the construction involved large-scale deforestation. Today, the green cover on the hills that checks and absorbs the flow of water has been eroded in the name of hydel energy. And all these hydel projects have been undertaken without assessing their impact on environment, hence the huge devastation. Because when you remove trees, blast rocks and exert unscientific anthropogenic pressure, it’s imperative that the nature will play havoc!!

So was it just a nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves?

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Uttarakhand Floods: Nature’s Fury or Have We Dug Our Own Graves? – Part I

Uttarakhand Floods is probably the most debatable topic currently. Environmentalists believe that this is a man-made disaster. Chandan Das explores the topic in a similar strain. He believes that human beings have dug their own graves by invoking the wrath of Nature!

“And much it grieved my heart to think what man has made of man” – William Wordsworth

pemari

Ok I will start with a Fact: The Himalayan region is home to several major Hindu pilgrimage centres – beginning from Rishikesh and Haridwar where the River Ganga first flows out into the plains. Every year thousands go to do the Char Dham Yatra. On 15th June 2013 a calamity “Himalayan tsunami” arrived and a tragedy struck Uttarakhand that was waiting to happen for a long time now. The rivers flowing across the famed pilgrimage sites became so furious that they submerged whole towns, washing away shops, homes, hotels and lodges.  Buildings collapsed like pack of cards as swollen rivers pounded down the denuded hills making a poignant view. The lofty green mountains, that would inspire even a deadpan to break into a song earlier, became barren. Today, as I write this , almost 62,000 of pilgrims have been left stranded, 1000 plus lives have been lost (oh yeah, the toll is likely to rise), property worth crores and the world-famous pilgrimage Kedarnath, located at a height of 11,760 feet , has been damaged by the latest fury of the monsoon. But here is my point: The injustice man did to the rivers in the name of development have left the beautiful water bodies seething with anger. It seems like Nature wanted to restore the balance that was disturbed by rivers having to change their course and due to blocking of their natural flow in the name of progress!!

So is it just a Nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves?

The Uncontrolled Traffic: Do We Have the “Capacity”?

The valleys of the Yamuna, the Ganga and the Alaknanda witness heavy traffic of tourists. In any normal day, if you sit at the Prayag bridge for tea and start counting, one will notice 80 buses crossing in about 5 minutes. 80 buses in 5 minutes?? Yeah you heard it right!!

Figure this: In 2005-06, 83,000-odd vehicles were registered in UTTARAKHAND. The figure increased to nearly 180,000 in 2012-13. Out of this, proportion of jeeps, cars and taxis, increased the most. In 2005-06, 4,000 vehicles were registered, which jumped to 40,000 in 2012-13 – a whopping 1000 per cent increase!! The heavy pilgrim population has also resulted in the mushrooming of shanty towns, numerous ramshackle buildings and cheap accommodation along river banks. It’s a known fact that there is a straight co-relation between tourism increase and higher incidence of landslides. Road contractors, who come from outside, do not understand the mountains. Most of the expressways that are being constructed now are tangled in legal cases. After cutting of mountains, landslides continue for up to four years, and contractors go bankrupt clearing the debris.  We see more landslides nowadays because of unplanned development in the hills. Most of these places have much more tourist inflow than the area’s carrying capacity. A new (mountain) range like the Himalaya will remain steady if not tampered with much. But the huge expansion of roads and transport is bringing the mountains in Uttarakhand down!!

So was it just a nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves?

8-Uttarakhand-floods

Garhwal Diaries 8 – Random Clicks in Kedarnath

They say you are really lucky if you have been able to visit Kedarnath at least once in your life. Well, may be or may not be. For a travel enthusiast and a nature lover like me, the experience was just mindblowing…memories that I will forever cherish in my mind…

IMG_0287Random clicks of the surroundings at Kedarnath

IMG_0288I was quite amazed to see the crowd

IMG_0294View of the valley.

IMG_0293Another random click!

IMG_0268Goldy, someone I befriended on my way back from Kedarnath

Dev Bhoomi Drowning

Dwaipayan Chakraborty writes about his travel to Uttarkhand a few days ago and ponders over what went wrong!

flood 1

It was alive a few days ago!

11th June I returned from Badrinath (Uttarkhand) about a week ago. My journey ranged from Haridwar to Badrinath via Joshimath & all the Prayags. Since childhood I had heard stories of hundreds flocking to these Great Dhams in search of salvation, but this visit was not for any religious motive but just as an enthusiastic adventure ride.

To me Haridwar/ Har ki Pauri was a place where people of various sects/races/class amalgamated to offer their prayers to the Almighty. One must be in the middle of the enormity in order to feel the energy and belief of us humans towards a Supreme Power. After having experienced the famous sandhya-aarti my journey continued towards Badrinath, with a stop at Joshimath/Auli, a bus journey of about 12 hours in moderately maintained Uttarakhand State Transport Buses. During this journey I crossed Hrishikesh, DevPrayag, RudraPrayag, KarnaPrayag, NandaPrayag, Srinagar, Joshimath, Govindghat  and many others too. The journey with the mighty mountains on one side and the Ganga on the other in the form of Mandakini, Bhagirathi, Alaknanda was indeed breathtaking. Deep gorges, sharp turns, shaky railings, crowded roads, stops at the dhabas for some quick grab made my travel all the more adventurous. I specifically remember Sikh devotees lined up along the roads with their saffron bands moving gradually towards their Holy place of Hemkund Sahib, people from Andhra arriving for their holy Char Dham Yatra. All a collection of chaos in those hills.

Now sitting at home and watching visuals of many of these places heavily affected by Nature’s fury does give me a chill in the spine. I was there just a week ago. What if I was among the thousands trapped, hundreds injured and many sacrificed? Before I left my father had casually warned me, I checked the weather forecast and showers were not expected before late June or early July. Yet it had arrived now, and in a titanic scale. Har Ki Pauri in huge waves of water. In Devprayag, RudraPrayag all the connecting bridges are now dangerously close to water levels resisting transport to ply. Further up market places of Srinagar are experiencing flood thereby making daily life all the more difficult. Chunks of roads have cracked and opened up. Large Stones loosening from the hill sides and being washed on to the roads. Rescue and private vehicles being gobbled up by the waters just like toys. Large housings near the river falling like delicate boxes. Heavy rain making the roads which already are marginally safe more vulnerable. Pilgrims towards Hemkund Sahib, Badrinath who have to make a certain journey on foot after a point all stuck praying to survive and safely return.

Such a reverse drama all in a week. While I was there the climate had a chill about it, often hot in the mornings but predominately cooler throughout the day. I remember enjoying my bus ride along with many others, often stopping on makeshift Dhabas, enjoying my meal which were insecurely made near the rivers. Houses lined up precariously close all along the river. People had turned their own homes into budget hotels in order to accommodate the large crowds. All the visitors were in a festive mood; everyone had come to unwind themselves, to find peace in the lap of their Gods. And ironically the scenario has drastically altered, now the festive mood has turned into a question of survival.

But the statistical numbers and the images prove yet again that Nature is too powerful to handle when enraged. The reasons, some known, others unknown are matters of research and rectification. National Disaster Management and the State and Central Governance often come into the picture post disaster. Having an aerial view of these places show the havoc created but being in the middle of it is another ball game. Stricter guidelines, implementation, frequent weather updates and proper crowd management along with self-awareness are the primary factors that could safeguard people. Calamities beyond our reach cannot be foretold but the reasons that triggering them can be taken care of.

With each passing minute, the prayers are getting stronger, the hope and faith remaining undeterred.

Garhwal Diaries 6 – Memories of Kedarnath

My heart wrenches as I continue the series on Garhwal Diaries. The recent mayhem in the Garhwals has stirred my memories and left me despondent. However, through my photo blog I make an effort to fall back on my memories of Kedarnath.

IMG_0261Random click of flowing water

IMG_0266Good Old Maggie with chai at Ramwara

IMG_0270The scenery changes as I come closer to Kedarnath

IMG_0284
Finally Kedarnath!

IMG_0281A closer look at the steeple!

Garhwal Diaries 5 – Reached Sitapur

Nature is at its best in the Garhwals. I could not stop clicking even if it meant capturing blurred images.

I was so smitten by the beauty of nature that I almost lost track of time only to be reminded  by the driver that I have reached by next destination Sitapur.

A recently developed small-town, Sitapur has a few motels where you can spend a night. Most of these motels offer home-cooked sumptuous meals. These days travellers prefer Sitapur over Gaurikund in order to avoid crowd.

IMG_0255The Sitapur Skyline

IMG_0300Next morning heading towards Gaurikund

gaurikundI started for Gaurikund sharp at 8 in the morning after Breakfast. The drive took barely 40 minutes. Upon reaching Gauri Kund I was shocked to see the crowd.

IMG_0256 (1)The trekking base for Kedarnath, Gaurikund has a hot water spring of the same name. However, I did not waste much time and headed towards the much awaited place.