Kedarnath: With an aim to attract tourist footfall during winter, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Thursday said his government is planning to develop the areas adjoining Kedarnath as a "paradise of tourism".
He laid the foundation stone of reconstruction projects worth nearly Rs 115 crore here.
Disclosing his plans to organise a festival in Kedarnath in January next year aimed at luring more and more people to areas adjoining it, Rawat said, "We want to develop the area as the paradise of winter tourism and will do whatever is needed for this.
Rawat also said he will soon be writing to his counterparts all over the country requesting them to create lodging facilities in the name of their respective states in the area to encourage more tourists from across the country to visit the famed Himalayan shrine.
"I will soon write to Chief Ministers of all states in this regard and make land available for the purpose," he said.
Projects worth over Rs 23 crore including a helipad for MI 26 choppers were inaugurated whereas foundation stones of projects worth over Rs 91 crore were laid by the Chief Minister.
Rawat said that the helipad will give a push to reconstruction work in the area by making transportation of heavy equipment possible at the high altitude shrine.
Elaborating on the details of the state government's reconstruction plans for Kedarnath which witnessed large scale devastation in 2013 flash floods, Rawat said the state government is working on a three-tiered safety plan for the shrine.
These include channelisation of rivers flowing behind it, raising security walls in Kedarpuri, securing the temple from inundation and strengthening the communication system in the entire region, Rawat added.
Praising the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) engaged in reconstruction work in the area despite precarious weather conditions in high altitudes, the Chief Minister said he salutes their indefatigable spirit which makes them work in difficult terrain amid vagaries of the weather.
Projects inaugurated today include IT and Wi-Fi projects implemented by District Disaster Management Authority to strengthen the communication system in Kedar valley, installation of LED digital display boards for weather related information and 25 cottages equipped with modern facilities for devotees visiting Kedarnath.
Foundation stones were laid for 113 houses to be built by NIM to rehabilitate teerth-purohits and other land owners who volunteered to give their land for reconstruction purposes near Kedarnath.
Meanwhile, Rawat paid obeisance at the Lord Shiva Temple and interacted with devotees including foreign tourists outside the temple premises.
He was accompanied by state Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat, local MLA Shailarani Rawat and Chief Secretary Rakesh Sharma.
He also launched a DVD on the reconstruction work carried out in Kedarnath after the 2013 calamity.