KEDARNATH, INDIA, September 23, 2013 (Times Of India): More than three months after flash floods, landslides and rain destroyed large parts of Uttarakhand the tortuous exercise of rebuilding shattered lives is on. The immediate task of evacuating thousands of pilgrims and tourists is over. But the residents suffer, each day a grim battle to tackle the fallout of a loss of a way of life and livelihoods.
The government has just about scratched the surface of the problem. The task of reconstruction is uphill. Roads have vanished. The topography has changed. Rivers have altered course. Rain and landslides hobble operations and worse, winter is approaching. Tourism, once Uttarakhand's backbone, doesn't exist anymore.
A case in point is the Kedar Valley of Rudraprayag district. Many families here no longer have homes. Their farmlands no longer exist. The pilgrimage circuit, once a money spinner that helped them to sustain the year is history. Hotels, shops and eateries are in ruins.
"We are finished, at Kedarbaba's mercy," Chait Singh, who is in his eighties, says. Flood waters took away his godown and shop at Sonprayag, 15.5 miles from Kedarnath. Sonprayag, on the banks of the Mandakini, is a picture of devastation. Abandoned cars litter the roads, most of them damaged, full of sand and debris.
The losses are enormous. The total number affected stands at several hundred thousand, chief secretary Subhash Kumar says. He names Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Pithoragarh as the worst-hit.
Chief minister Vijay Bahugana concedes a complete recovery will take years and nearly US$2.2 billion. The government is setting up pre-fabricated houses in 19 places. These should last for over 20 years. Bahugana adds the state doesn't have the means to compensate for the damages fully. "We are doing our best, but can't compensate the entire (Kedar) Valley for their loss. Our effort is to provide relief."
It's the yatra -- rather the suspension of it -- that's proving the biggest hurdle. Puja resumed at Kedarnath on September 11, but the temple town is nowhere near ready for pilgrims. The temple town's infrastructure was smashed on June 16 and June 17. Many bodies are still buried under the rubble that covers the town.