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Over 13,000 business units hit in 3 Uttarakhand districts

Last updated on: June 24, 2013 11:37 IST

Over 13,000 business units hit in 3 Uttarakhand districts

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N Sundaresha Subramanian in Rishikesh/Devprayag/Shrinagar

The heavy rains that have lashed Uttarakhand over the past weekend, and the floods that followed, have blown the sails out of the hill state’s fragile economy. 

While damage to property and life has been reported in at least six districts of the state, three – Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag – are the worst affected.

“Industry is badly affected. Between 13,000 and 14,000 micro industries and business units in these three districts have been affected. There has been no activity at all in the past  week,” said Pankaj Gupta, president, Uttarakhand Industries Association. 

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Image: Flood waters flow next to a residential complex after heavy rains in Uttarakhand.
Photographs: Reuters

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Over 13,000 business units hit in 3 Uttarakhand districts

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Development in the hill state has been largely along the roads, which run parallel to the Ganga and its tributaries. Of the two main tributaries, the Bhagirathi was relatively quiet, while towns and villages on the banks of the Alaknanda paid a heavy price.

Hotels, small businesses and power units are invariably situated near the river and many of these stand precariously on the edges of roads, as if suspended in air, often held in place by concrete pillars that run several metres deep. 

As the water levels rose, “some have been grounded, others washed away”.

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Image: Vehicles are pictured in the flooded waters of a stream after heavy rains in Uttarakhand.
Photographs: Reuters

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Over 13,000 business units hit in 3 Uttarakhand districts

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Power supply has been cut in many areas as poles and transmission lines have fallen to nature’s fury. Restoration of these are not yet a priority as the state machinery is geared toward rescuing stranded pilgrims and tourists. 

Further down, the Rishikesh-Devprayag belt has been relatively spared. But the river rafting and adventure tourism business that had come up in the past few years, has suffered a big blow.

There are 30-35 campsites between Rishikesh and Devprayag that have been damaged. Investments of Rs 15-20 lakh ride on each of these campsites.

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Image: Stranded vehicles stand in queues after heavy rains in Uttarakhand.
Photographs: Reuters

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Over 13,000 business units hit in 3 Uttarakhand districts

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Hotels in and around Rishikesh, which offered adventure tourism as an add-on, face a loss of clientele. “Everything is closed now. We are offering up to 20 per cent discount on our regular tariff,” says a receptionist at the Hilltop Hotel. 


The river rafting season ends on June 30. Typically, the final two weeks are used to draw heavy bookings. Pranava Kukreti, director, Treks n Rapids, an adventure tourism company, said, “All bookings have been cancelled. The camps used to make the highest revenues during the last few days of the season.The loss of business could be up to Rs 5-7 crore (Rs 50-70 million).”

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Image: A house submerged in sand due to floods in Srinagar, in Uttarakhand.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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Over 13,000 business units hit in 3 Uttarakhand districts

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Tikharam, a priest from the local temple in Gullar village near Shivpuri, says, “The water is anyway dangerous. You have made it a business. In such times, damage is inevitable.”

He says almost all the campsites in the vicinirty have suffered damages, though he has not heard of any loss of life or injury.

Bad roads are bad for business. The road from Rishikesh to Devprayag and onwards to Shrinagar is anyway treacherous, with signs of black humour reading, “Drive slowly. Heaven can wait,” dotting the riverside. But these have been made worse at several places by boulders that have descended and not much has been cleared. At places, river water has corroded the roads badly, making maneuverings dangerous. 

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Image: A Hindu devotee tries to take a holy dip in the flooded waters of river Ganges in Haridwar.
Photographs: Reuters

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Over 13,000 business units hit in 3 Uttarakhand districts

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Rebuilding the roads and restoring power would be top priority for businesses in these districts.

Banks and insurers would have a large role to play in the coming days as the state limps back to normalcy. “The association will work closely with insurance companies to ensure claims of people whose properties have been washed away, are settled on a priority basis. We will ask banks to restructure the loans for the businesses affected by floods,” said Gupta. 

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Image: People walk along a damaged road after heavy rains in Uttarakhand.
Photographs: Reuters
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Claims might be settled, loans might be restructured. But rebuilding the lost markets is going to take a long time for Uttarakhand’s business community, as the high-profile Char-dham circuit has been battered beyond recognition. 


Image: Soldiers rescue stranded people after heavy rains in Uttarakhand.
Photographs: Reuters

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