The temples committee has already posted a request to devotees on its website to contribute towards the rebuilding
Rebuilding plans are beginning to surface in Uttarakhand. The state is limping back to normality after flash floods and landslides stranded thousands and killed several.
The eighth century Kedarnath Mandir, which was at the epicentre of the devastation last month, is set to get a Rs 2,000-crore facelift. The Badrinath-Kedarnath Temples Committee, which owns and manages the structure, is finalising a plan to upgrade infrastructure in and around the structure and on the pilgrim route to Rishikesh, 228 km downstream.
“We have already requested Rs 200 crore from the government for immediate revamp of the temple and its structure, with the help of the Archaeological Survey of India,” said Ganesh Godiyal, president, BKTC. The committee had estimated the loss of property at the temple site, including office buildings, guesthouses and valuables such as jewellery, to be around Rs 225 crore due to the floods, he said. “Apart from this, we have engaged a consultant who is expected to submit the master plan for building about Rs 2,000 crore worth of infrastructural facilities between Rishikesh and Kedarnath.”
The committee has already posted a request to devotees on its website to contribute towards the rebuilding. The master plan envisages yatrigrams along the way in Rishikesh, Devprayag, Rudraprayag and Sonprayag, which can accommodate a few thousand at a time. These would have rescue facilities in case of emergencies, including helipads at Kedarnath and Gaurikund.
The temples committee is also looking at regulating the number of devotees moving up the pilgrim route on the basis of these facilities. “There will be proper streamlining of devotees’ movements by giving time slots,” said Godiyal.
Design Associates, a Delhi-based architectural consultant company, is advising the committee on the project. Detailed proposals that would be put forward including an underground network of water supply, sewerage, storm water and electricity distribution systems that can function even in extreme climatic conditions, the consultant said. “When we were assigned the task a few months ago, the temple committee was looking for a 15-20-year master plan. Now, the temple complex needs urgent attention and we would start working on the report once the rescue work is over,” says Debasis Roy, director, Design Associates.
The consultant’s plan includes modern facilities, including a helipad at Gaurikund, and food outlets and rescue facilities every 1.5 km along the 14-km uphill trek to Kedarnath. The company is also for construction of limited and essential structures, with heights of buildings not exceeding G 1 at Kedarnath, and a ropeway along the trekking route. “All permanent buildings shall be on stilts to allow easy flow of water below in case of any floods. Building construction shall only be permitted using existing topography, with minimal cutting and filling of existing contours,” the company said in a response to Business Standard.
The other suggestions include taking steps to save the complex from direct impact of any calamities, by construction of dykes around the main shrine and creation of permanent disaster management modules at Kedarnath and Gaurikund from April-end to November, the period of pilgrimage. “Costs can only be ascertained and shared with outsiders once our master plan is finalised by BKTC and duly ratified by relevant government and statutory bodies. Due guidance shall be sought from National Disaster Management Authority on facilities,” the company added.
According to BKTC, around 4,00,000 people visit Kedarnath on an annual basis.
Arranging funds for the ambitious project is the priority. BKTC’s own reserves are about Rs 25 crore. The annual revenue of the temple in 2012-13 was around Rs 19 crore. Most of this was used to pay the 800 workers, including 200 permanent staff, and managing 38 guesthouses, which provided accommodation at subsidised rates for devotees.
The offer by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh to rebuild the temple had created a political stir. “We want all states and devotees to contribute to this effort. But it should be done on behalf of BKTC as we manage the daily operations of the temple,” said Godiyal.
Image: Around 4,00,000 people visit Kedarnath on an annual basis