Uttarakhand floods: 744 villages are still marooned

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DEHRADUN: Breaking its silence on damage to the Himalayan state, the Uttarakhand government on Saturday said at least 744 villages and hamlets have lost connectivity with the rest of the state. With the loss of life and property uncertain, agencies said the death toll and the number of missing could rise substantially.

Making a preliminary assessment of the damage, chief secretary Subhash Kumar said the loss of infrastructure has been massive since June 16, with drinking water supply, power and road connectivity among the worst hit. At least three power projects, Maneri Bhali I and II and Kaliganga have been hit. Considerable damage has been done to the Vishnuprayag project. “The 4MW Kaliganga project has been washed way. As a result of heavy silt accumulation in the other projects, power generation at MB-I and II has been suspended. Production is expected to resume after desilting, tentatively by July 9,” Kumar said.

Power supply breakdowns have caused blackouts in Rudraprayag and Kedar Valley, two of the worst affected regions. As many as 658 villages remain in darkness. Kumar said, “A total 3,978 villages lost connectivity after disaster struck. So far, connectivity has been temporarily restored in 2,375 habitations, the rest are still marooned.”

So far, Kumar said, the government has undertaken temporary restoration. “Our priority is to establish connectivity with all habitations. With the rescue of tourists nearly done, focus will now shift to providing relief and rehabilitation to locals,” he said.

Among other essential services hit, at least 237 drinking water schemes have been damaged. Restoration of at least some of these, he said, is likely to be completed by July 9. Locals say scarcity of potable water is forcing people to drink from natural sources which are contaminated. “Hundreds are reporting ill,” said Rudra Pratap, a resident of Pandukeshwar near Joshimath.

Garia, a resident of Chamoli, said at least five or six villages near Govindghat and Hanumanchatti are facing starvation. “Many here emptied their food stock for the stranded pilgrims but now they’re struggling,” he said. It’s the damage to the road network that has hit rescue operations the hardest. At least 744 roads, of the 1,636 damaged, have still not been rebuilt.

Kumar said the rebuilding exercise could take from a few days to three months. He said according to estimates, the damage to road, power and drinking water supply networks have caused losses of more than Rs 1,000 crore. To rebuild the state, the Uttarakhand government has sought Rs 2000 crore, of which the centre has already approved Rs 1000 crore.

Government Officials said peak monsoons have still not arrived. “Uttarakhand receives heavy rainfall in July-August. Though relief work on is being carried out on a war footing, there is fear that restoration work will be hampered by rain,” Secretary, disaster management and rehabilitation board, Bhaskaranand Joshi said.

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