A technical committee formed by the State Disaster Management Department has raised serious questions over the reconstruction work undertaken at Kedarnath, which was devastated by flash floods in 2013. The committee, comprising scientists and civil engineers from agencies, such as Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Geological Survey of India, and National Institute of Hydrology, has claimed that the newly built ghat on the confluence of rivers Mandakini and Saraswati in Kedarnath has restricted the flow of Mandakini and increased the river velocity.
According to the experts, this increase in the river velocity can lead to catastrophehic loss of life and property in case flash floods of a similar nature as the one in 2013 occur in the region.
Talking to Times of India, Dr Vikram Gupta, from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, who was part of the committee, said, “We are of the view that the course of any river or stream in Kedarnath should not be restricted by construction work. The ghat built on the bank of Mandakini are constricting the flow of the river.” In order to safeguard lives, the committee has recommended immediate dismantling of all the partially damaged structures near the Kedarnath temple and a ban on any new construction in the vicinity of the shrine.
“No new construction should be allowed in the vicinity of the Kedarnath temple and the buildings that were damaged in 2013 should be dismantled immediately to stabilize the permeable terrain, “ said Gupta. The committee surveyed the ongoing restoration work in Kedar Valley, which is being carried out under the supervision of Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) this year. The report, which has recently been submitted to the disaster management department, highlights that the ghat, which is located 500m from the temple, has a “problem“ with its design and that it should have been built at a distance further away from the river.
A committee member, on the condition of anonymity, said: “There is a problem with the design of the ghat and there are no weep holes, which allow water to percolate, on the tiles laid on the stairs of the ghats. Additionally , as the river velocity has increased due to the construction of the ghat, pilgrims will be at high risk in case of flash floods leading to a sudden increase in water level in Mandakini.“