Villagers hit by floods and landslips raised antigovernment slogans as Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat landed at the Rudraprayag helipad on Wednesday.
The flood victims demanded to know why authorities had failed in disaster mitigation efforts earlier and were failing now in providing relief to Rudraprayag — one of the worst-hit areas.
Mr. Bahuguna and his team had to fly back within 15 minutes of arriving as the crowd was in no mood to listen to them.
Similar scenes of anger were witnessed in Uttarkashi where people could be seen waiting in queue for hours to get a bucket of potable water. “Everyone knows that Uttarkashi is a disaster-prone area but authorities who received funds as early as in March to make structures along the Bhagirathi to prevent waters from entering the town did not do so,” said Veer Singh, who is seeking legal action against officials and contractors who had failed to safeguard the town.
“We understand that the flash flood was gigantic but preventive measures, if taken on time, would have reduced the damage by at least 50 per cent,” said Harish Pundir, whose shop was washed away.
In old Srinagar, over 60 residents, whose houses had been destroyed, wanted immediate rehabilitation. The police, which usually gave a warning before flooding of the Alaknanda river, did not do so this time, they said.
The main building and campus of the Officers’ Training Academy of the paramilitary Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in Srinagar has been extensively damaged after the Alaknanda changed course due to heavy rains and dumped over five-feet of silt on the facility. The damage is estimated at Rs. 90 crore and repair and restoration work would be undertaken after the weather improved, a senior SSB officer said.
In Dehradun, Chipko leader Sunderlal Bahuguna had a miraculous escape when volunteers lifted him out of his cottage in the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO) that had been flooded on June 16. Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Bahuguna said that although nature’s fury was responsible for the havoc in Kedarnath and Rudraprayag, several problems in Uttarkashi and Dehradun were man-made.
Founder of HESCO Anil Joshi blamed the authorities for the flooding of various low-lying areas in Dehradun. Canals made by the British acted as natural drainage systems but the so-called experts had covered them in the name of beautification or widening of roads, Dr. Joshi said.