Dehradun : Rains received during the past 24 hours have broken all past records in Uttarakhand and as expected have spelt doom and chaos. At least 10 persons have been killed and many more feared missing, as houses and hotels have been brought down and vehicles swept away by the cascading waters.
Thousands of pilgrims and tourists have been stranded at various places on the char dhaam yatra and other locations, including Bhajji, the renowned cricketer, who is caught at Joshimath while going to Hemkund Sahib. The state government has appealed to all pilgrims to stay put where they are as the meteorological department has forecast torrential to heavy rains in the next 36 hours.
Caught with its pants down in the very first rain of the season the Uttarakhand government has called a statewide alert, as all the rivers in this small mountain state are in spate. An SOS has been sent to the army, ITBP and to the centre for relief and reinforcement and request also sent for the NDRF. The union home ministry and defence ministry has been asked to expedite assistance.
The Ganga at Hardwar is just a couple of cms below the danger level and continues to have a rising trend as most of its tributaries are in spate following heavy rains in their catchment areas. The Bhagirathi, Mandakini, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi are almost overflowing their banks and have washed away huge tracts of land.
Fearing that the worst is yet not over, and more rains as predicted could bring with it more bad tidings, the state government has opened up control centres, which are being manned round-theclock. Leaves of all officials and staff of various departments have been cancelled for the next four days to meet the emergency situation that has risen.
Hundreds of families living in the low lying areas along the banks of the rivers have been shifted to higher grounds as there are fears that the water levels could rise further today as rains lash the state. The idol in the sanctum sanctorum of the Dhari Devi temple on the banks of the Alaknanda has been sifted to a higher platform, as it could have been undated by the river waters. Because of the heavy silt level in the river, power generation has come to a standstill in the hydropower projects in all the Tons and Yamuna river basins. Reports said that power generation had been stopped in the 240 MW Chibbro, 120 MW Khodri, 33.75 MW Dhakrani, 51 MW Dhalipur and 30 MW Kulhal projects. The worst to suffer are the large number of pilgrims who have been stranded at various points along the char dhaam yatra and tyhose on the trip to Kedarnath could have to wait for some time as a 30-metre of the highway has been washed away by the river. Over 120 roads are reported to be closed in various parts of the state due to landslips of landslides or tracts being washed away.
In the state capital the large number of houses that have come up along the banks of the Rispana and Bindal rivers have been moved away to higher grounds creating rehabilitation problems for the authorities. Ironically, it is the authorities themselves who are responsible for the problem today, as it was they who closed their eyes when the illegal construction were coming up and were regularized later.
Because of the lack of a drainage system, almost all the roads in the city are under water and the new colonies that have come up with proper sanctioned plans are the worst hit with the rain water entering the houses and forcing the residents to move to safer places. But the MDDA authorities, who are squarely responsible for this mess today and should be taken to task, are tight-lipped at the precarious situation.
Meanwhile all eyes are the centre and the army and ITBP authorities as also the NDRF that they will move in to the affected areas and take the people who have been adversely hit to safer grounds and also start relief and rescue measures for the large number of pilgrims and tourists who have been stranded at various parts of this small mountain state.
A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand).
Jagdish had worked with India’s leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards
Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.