Day 8: Understanding the damage in Uttarkashi
28 sept 2013; On the way to & from Gangotri
We are going up to Gangotri, taking some relief material from the ashram to remote villages there. Devendra ji also suggested that it would be a great way to see and understand the damage caused by the floods.
As the floods came during the day, most people were out on work. The damage in uttarkashi is largely to property and not much to lives. In guptkashi region, while the houses stand still, the people are gone. The unofficial estimates stand at 25000 lost lives in the Kedarnath region.
The road is fairly damaged. In sections, the new road made after the floods is almost 2 storeys up, just like in the route from Rudraprayag to Guptkashi. Its a horror just to see the size of boulders that have come down from the mountains. At places our jeep is just on the edge of the road. At each of those moments, I catch the aunty sitting next to me raise her hands in prayer :).
Near Maneri, Devendra ji showed us a village, Dirdsaari, where the bridge is washed away, cutting off the village from the main land and 20 houses along with the land are washed away.
At another place devendra ji showed “here there was a Dharmshala called Delhi Dharmshala. 40 people died in there when it was washed away”. I looked at the riverbed where it was supposed to be and all I could see was rubble and no sign that once there was a building here.
25 kms before Gangotri was a village called Dharali. We had to drop some relief material there and I was shocked to see the damage… either the houses were destroyed or filled with mud and rubble.
The picture shows a part of the mud that people have taken out of homes. Loss of livelihood is heavy in this region also. In Guptkashi, the primary source of income was Kedarnath religious tourism and in Uttarkashi and above it was mainly Gangotri.
The hotels were all closed and filled with mud and rubble.
To ease our discomfort of looking at the destruction, the nature made sure we were surrounding by beautiful sights :). Right after Dharali, we came across this point from where we could see the snow covered peaks and the Ganga flowing towards them. We just stopped there for a minute to take in the scene.
On the way, we saw buses that have been stuck there since the floods. One jeep had its bonnet broken as if a huge rock had fell on the engine. Thankfully the seats were intact so we hoped that the people inside were able to escape.
We reached Gangotri and it was empty. Only a couple of shops were open and one restaurant. The pandits were sitting idle. Joseph ji has been here a lot of times and he says everytime he has seen thousands of people here. He has never seen Gangotri so vacant.
We all took dips in our own ways. I simply sprinkled the ice cold water on me but Devendra ji and others literally took baths… One uncle-aunty who had come with us wanted to do a pooja.
So while that was going on, Joseph ji took me for a walk on the other side and I saw the most beautiful rocks! Shining golden.
We sat there in silence for sometime and then went to look for a swami Sunderanand who is famous for his rare Himalayan photography. He also has a big book on that. He wasn’t there but we just saw his kutir (hut) from outside.
Then we went back to the temple side. We collected some rocks fom the river bed to make wisdom rock gifts :), gave the relief material to the village pradhan and some to the people we met on the way and felt they needed the material.
We left Gangotri after lunch at 1pm. For most part we were having discussions on alternate livelihood options and how to address the mindset of the region. And then it started to rain and then it became a little stronger and a couple of stones fell on our vehicle.. It wasn’t a big deal but the uncle aunty with us got a little worried and everyone just looked ahead on the road thereafter. Some of us were wondering how it must have been during those 3 days when falling stones was a regular occurrence….
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