Sunday, June 30, 2013

Uttarakhand Floods & Tourist Management - Few Suggestions

The Uttarakhand Floods opened up a pandora's box when it comes to the mismanagement by local civic bodies and the State Government. It highlights the lack of preparedness to deal with the disaster.  The entire set of reports and the focus was on the rescue operations for the tourists and in the overall case, the residents of the area seems to have been neglected by the media.  Now that the rescue operations have almost completed, the focus seems to be shifting towards the locals with 744+ villages reported to be cut off from the rest of the world.  But here, does someone has the number of villages that have been Washed off completely?  The tales as being aired or reported are all from the rescue and tourists, but none had been talking about the rehabilitation until last couple of days and there is NO focus on the Washed of villages where almost entire population has been missing and feared dead!!!!

Anyhow, that is something to be addressed by the Government Machinery and for the media to bring the facts to us.  What my aim from this article is to get few of the Suggestions that would help ensure that the mismanagement that was highlighted by this tragedy is addressed and that there is more control in the tourism and on the number of people visiting the Char Dhams at any given point in time.  Another aspect that I would suggest to be corrected would be around industrialization in Uttarakhand.

Starting with the regularization of Char Dham Visitors and the other tourists, I feel following steps need to be implemented with immediate effect (though many would avert their own decisions for 2 to 3 years as that is the time that would require to rebuild the Infrastructure connecting these locations) - 
  1. An Authority must be appointed at the Center Level to oversee the overall flow towards the Char Dham locations
  2. All the Visitors to the Char Dham locations must be required to register with the central Authority and get tokens
  3. All the service providers including Tour Operators, Horse Suppliers, Taxi Operators and others must be registered with the central authority and they must report the Tourists and Char Dham "Yatris" to the central Authority.
  4. Central Authority needs to then divide the Registered Applicants in batches and define the time frames for each batch to visit the Shrines in stipulated time frame. 
  5. Check posts may be established to monitor the movement of the Pilgrims and once the previous Batch has returned, the next batch should be permitted to proceed. This would ensure that there is no rush in the locals to host the pilgrims and that the areas do not see the same set of Rapid unorganized development again. This would help sanitize the Eco-Sensitive Zone from Mushroom growth of infrastructure
  6. Locals and the Local Civic Bodies must be sensitized to not rush to re-build everything again and caution must be taken to ensure that whatever is built is built to sustain the future hazards
Many may voice against the points mentioned above, but then they need to note that Registration and Approval is a must for Amarnath Yatra and there adequate measures are taken to ensure the safety and security of the pilgrims.  If the measures are successful there, why can't they be replicated for Char Dham?

Coming to the point of Industrialization, the Government needs to learn that the Geography of Uttarakhand is not such that it could be considered safe heaven for Industries (from Geographic Stand point).  The state government needs to learn from the catastrophe and needs to ensure that they do not invite heavy industrialization as that would impact the nature adversely due to deforestation "Major Cause of Soil Erosion and silt formation".  Also, with deforestation the upper crust would become weak to hold the heavy rocks and boulders that would then result in Land-slide and in many cases may destroy the underlying infrastructure.  Additionally, Industrialization would lead to population moving closure to the Industrial Area and then another round of Habitat getting developed at whatever piece of land is available, thus again another impact on nature's course and another invitation for disaster that we have already witnessed now.

The strength of Uttarakhand would lie in the Tourism Industry and if they focus there with development around Tourism facilities they would do better.  It would be good for them to ensure that the tourists reaching Uttarakhand are registered to provide them with the required information, provide them with the contact points to connect to in case of distress situation, educate them about the weather forecast in the region and where to head in disastrous situation and foremost train the teams at various levels to ensure safety and security of the tourists.  It would also be good for the Uttarakhand Government to apply checks and balances to ensure that evacuation drills get more focus to safeguard the locals rather than trying to rescue and rehabilitate.  

Proactive Approach might seem to be expensive, but proves to be Cost & more importantly Life Saving 

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