Roads leading to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri still in a bad shape

The Uttarakhand Government has announced plans to start the ‘Char Dham Yatra’ from May 2, but the roads leading to the four shrines – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri – are still in a bad shape.

With sporadic rains making road rebuilding task even more difficult for the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the Public Works Department, the State tourism industry is fearing a total washout of this pilgrimage season.

“Almost 90 per cent of our rooms used to get booked in advance by March-April for the ‘yatra season’, but this year not a single room has been booked so far. Tour operators and visitors still scared because of the devastation caused by the flash floods in June last year. We might see only a handful of pilgrims this year,” said Ravi Rawat, manager of Riverside Resorts situated on the banks of Alaknanda river in Srinagar (Garhwal).

Mr. Rawat was lucky that his property was not affected by the fury of the Alaknanda river that swelled and buried several government and private properties in the region. But several of the people who stayed in the hotel before departing on their journey to Kedarnath and Badrinath last year got caught in nature’s fury and lost their lives.

“Months after the tragedy, we used to get calls from as far as Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal with people asking for any news on survivors. These days we see people returning to take their vehicles that they left behind last year after the roads got washed away. It will take years before normalcy returns to these parts of the hills,” he added.

BRO and PWD officials can be seen making all efforts to reconstruct roads, but these tracks are not broad enough to take the rush of hundreds of vehicles that bring pilgrims from across the country.

The 40-km-long stretch between Rudraprayag and Guptkashi en route Kedarnath is still not fit to take heavy traffic.

Those wanting to go to Kedarnath will have to trek at least 15 km extra as there is still no road till Gaurikund, which used to be the base camp for the 20-km trek to the shrine earlier.

“The State Government has failed miserably in rebuilding roads…The Centre also delayed granting funds to the BRO. The entire tourism industry that is heavily dependent on pilgrims inflow will have to bear the brunt of the State Government’s corruption and inaction,” said former chief minister B.C. Khanduri, who is also the BJP candidate from Pauri Garhwal Lok Sabha constituency.

Chief Minster Harish Rawat, however, is confident that the Char Dham Yatra would be completed successfully with visitors getting all facilities. “Road reconstruction and other civil works for the yatra are going on continuously. Despite bad weather, our engineers are working round-the-clock. This year, we have taken several new initiatives to ensure safety and comfort for the pilgrims,” he said.