Heavy snowfall has badly affected the annual pilgrimage to Kedarnath this year in Uttarakhand. The portals of this famous Hindu shrine, located in Rudraprayag, were opened for visitors on April 28. But it’s been snowing in Kedarnath ever since, creating problem for the local administration.
Local administration claimed that the valley has received such heavy snowfall after more than thirty years. So far five pilgrims have lost their lives due to the extreme cold.
Situated at an altitude of 3,581 metres, the Kedarnath shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Gaurikund is the last road head and after that one has to undertake a tough 14 kilometre trek to reach the shrine.
Bad weather has played spoilsport and the chopper service to Kedarnath is yet to start. The district administration is finding it tough to make the drinking water pipeline functional and to restore electricity as well as telephone lines. Daily snowfall has hit the basic amenities hard in the area. At present Kedarnath is facing an acute crisis of kerosene.
The death of five pilgrims has forced the local administration to conduct mandatory medical tests on all elderly people undertaking the 14 km trek. Besides, visitors are not allowed to move from Gaurikund to Kedarnath after 2 pm.
Rudraprayag’s district magistrate Dr Neeraj Kharwal said, “Kedarnath has received a record snowfall after almost three decades. We have deployed six doctors to conduct medical checks on the pilgrims. Earlier, we were not allowing movement of pilgrims from Gaurikund to the shrine after 12 noon, but the weather has improved marginally and now we have relaxed the entry time till 2 pm. There is no shortage of ration in Kedarnath, but a crisis of kerosene prevails. This will return normal within a day or two.”
Kedarnath is among one of the four pilgrimage centres, char dham, in Uttarakhand along with Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The annual pilgrimage, commonly called the Char Dham Yatra, in the Uttarakhand Himalayas began with the opening of the portals of the Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines on April 24, followed by Kedarnath on April 28 and Badrinath the next day.
The air service to Kedarnath, being provided by a record seven airlines this year, remains suspended. The helipad in Kedarnath is covered with snow and the PWD department is presently busy clearing it. The air service is expected to start this week.
Local resident Keshav Tiwari rued, “Although the peak tourism season to Kedarnath is from May 15 to June 30, the negative publicity generated after the death of five pilgrims and poor arrangements is likely to affect the pilgrimage this time.”
The death of five pilgrims rattled the state government as well and Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna decided to set up a monitoring cell for the smooth conduct of the Char Dham Yatra.
Src: India Today