The Water Cooler

Notes on a Himalayan flood

A distant mountain lover struggles to piece together what’s going on exactly in Uttarakhand

If the extraordinary swell of the Ganges had not mowed down everything that came in its path, be it temple, road, building or bridge, then for Uttarakhand too, this would have been a day of celebration. For Tuesday is Ganga Dussehra, a day when Ganga is said to descend to the earth from her hidden abode. Some say to purge. Not many doubted it with scenes like these washing over Uttarkashi and other places.

And Uttarkashi is the district take-off point for Gangotri, from where the Ganga descends.
Less than a week ago the Chief minister of Uttarakhand was in Delhi asking for a review of a recent notification declaring vast stretches between Gaumukh to Uttarkashi in the state as an eco-sensitive zone.

A PTI report of June 5 says, ‘Citing ongoing protests by locals against the Centre's recent notification declaring the area as eco-sensitive, the Chief Minister said the move will adversely affect the infrastructure projects underway in the border area which is highly sensitive to natural calamities.’
 
While the term ‘natural calamity’ will need a closer scrutiny and response in the months and years to come - just a basic check of something more immediate hits a wall. Hearing about the Char Dham yatra being suspended, I tried getting more information on the official Uttarakhand  site on yatris and here’s what I got.

A big fat literal 0!

When media reports are diverse on anything between 20000-70000 plus yatris across the char dhams of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamnotri, Gangotri being stuck, how is an average person to check? Especially if phones don’t work in some of these areas. And where most hill roads look like this.
 
A hill road in Garhwal. Photo courtesy FB Group Rishikesh.
I do hope another 0 on another government website is more accurate though. According to the Met department, the weather forecast for much of Uttarkashi and Rudraprayag districts, both badly hit, is - 0mm rainfall (for the rest of this week).

Meanwhile as Harbhajan Singh, the cricketer returning from Hemkund Sahib, is safely at the ITBP camp at Joshimath, we hope the thousands stuck across the char dhams, too find their way home soon. And safely.

As the early spread of the Indian monsoon is decoded in the days to come, this too unfolds as one more page in a Himalayan diary of disasters.

Helpline numbers by the Uttarakhand state govt
Uttarkashi 01374-226126-226461
Tehri 01376-233433
Chamoli 01372-251437, 01372-1077
Rudraprayag Disaster Management Toll Room 1077 / 01364-233727

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