Cleaning of Kedarnath shrine starts

Dehradun : The much awaited cleansing of the Kedarnath shrine finally got underway, almost 36 days after the gruesome tragedy hit the region on June 16. Chief minister Vijay Bahuguna who announced that the cleansing process had started also revealed that hence forth no construction would be allowed in a 500 metre area around the temple.

He told newspersons that a 10-member team yesterday was dropped at Kedarnath by a chopper for clearing the debris. The team included amongst others two members of the Badri-Kedarnath Temple Committee. The team will basically focus on clearing the debris outside the temple complex, under which a number of bodies are also feared to have been buried.

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Bahuguna said that heavy machinery will be lifted and dropped at Kedarnath by IAF choppers and these will be used for demolishing the houses and other buildings that were heavily damaged in the June 16 floods. They will also help clear the debris. The works will be undertaken under the supervision of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and EI Projects Ltd.

He also made it clear that to ensure that there is no confusion later on who owned what, it had been decided that all the damaged buildings will be numbered and videographed before they are demolished.  However, reconstruction and restoration works will be undertaken by the ASI and GSI, only after the entire area had been cleared off the debris.

However, environmentalists here were of the view that almost all of the large number of constructions that had come up at Kedarnath were illegal and rather than giving their owners a clean chit and allowing them to undertake the constructions once again, the Uttarakhand government should ban all constructions to retain the pristine charm and glory of the shrine.

They were also of the view that the weather would play a major role in the time that would be taken in clearing the debris from the shrine as also the health of the team that had been sent for the clearing work. Past experience had been that most of the teams could not stay there for a long stretch and had to be brought back, as they fell sick because of the stench of putrefying bodies.

Besides the fear of the weather taking a turn for the worse has always given a feeling of uneasiness not only to the team members that had earlier been dropped at the shrine, but also to the government machinery here. There was a time when food and other essential items could not be sent to the team of doctors and other staff at the shrine and they had been told to meet their requirements from the shops that were deserted and destroyed.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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