Uttarakhand struggles to recoup

 Abandoned vehicles, crushed and swamped with debris, litter along roadside and river banks at various places where the ravaging floods in Uttarakhand created havoc.

The scars of devastation are spilled all over and rebuilding Uttarakhand poses a herculean challenge, even several months later. But the bigger challenge is to rebuild shattered lives and livelihood.

In early and mid-November, higher regions of Uttarakhand will witness extreme cold and snowfall making matters worse. Still, many villages stand cut off, roads vanished, schools flattened, bridges lost and thousands of houses lie in rubble.

Hundreds of poor families have lost their sole breadwinner and nothing seems to have changed for them. It has now come down to a matter of survival, where there’s no time even for mourning the dead.

In the upper Chamouli region, people of at least 40 villages still have to walk 15-km for a painkiller. Over a thousand lives in eight villages in the Tharai area live precariously as the lone bridge connecting these villages now exists only in memory.

Many families now don’t live in their houses for what now remains are only the ruins. An estimated 160 families, in faraway Pithoragarh and Bageshwar districts, are living in tents and community centres for the last three months. Farmlands swallowed in the deluge offer little hope.

The state economy, driven by tourism, is in a shambles and guest houses in upper regions ahead of Rishikesh have dried out of tourists. The nearly 105 rafting and adventure sports outlets in Rishikesh are struggling to get customers. The pilgrimage circuits in Uttarakhand, the lifeline for thousands of locals, may take time to regain its old glory.

In the upper reaches of Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi, roads are for namesake making it difficult for ration and relief to reach there.

Delivering essential supplies and restoring livelihood is one of the paramount challenges that the government is trying hard to tackle. There are several villages in the Kedarnath Valley where there are still no roads or bridges.

 A total of 736 schools in the state, demolished by rocks and debris that rolled down along with flood waters in June, are still in ruins. Children have to walk several miles everyday to alternative schools.

The rebuilding process is long and tedious. Restoration will take years and Inder Singh of Saemi village knows it best. About 25 miles from Kedarnath, the epicentre of the disaster, Singh ran a lodge for pilgrims and earned handsomely to lead a happy life with his family.

Singh’s lodge and home is nowhere to be seen today. Floods washed away everything and Singh will have to start from scratch. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said 3,100 families need urgent rehabilitation. The chief minister has promised pre-fabricated one-room structures, each costing about Rs 6 lakh, to be made available to 2,500 homeless before the onset of winter.

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