Zee Media Bureau
Dehradun/Haridwar: Surrounded by dense green forest, with a waterfall nearby, the tiny village of Rambara was the most popular resting place for devotees trekking to Kedarnath from Gaurikund. But the flash floods that caused death and destruction at Kedarnath on June 16-17 spared none in Rambara. Nothing is left there, just nothing.
The entire area, which housed around 100-150 shops and five hotels, to serve the needs of the ever swelling number of pilgrims, was completely washed away leaving no trace of the once bustling hamlet perched at an altitude of 2591 metres halfway on the 14 km long trek to Kedarnath.
The floods have left Rambara under 10 feet of sludge. No one can risk a guess on the number of people washed away by the angry Mandakini river or worse still, lie buried under the heaps of mud and debris.
As per eyewitnesses, on June 16 at around 6.15 pm, water level in the Mandakini rose like a tsunami; huge waves of engulfed Rambara, sweeping away everything.
When the trail of death from Kedarnath reached Rambara after decimating upstream hamlets like Gadoriya and Gidurpharni, most of those present there were caught unaware. While the locals dashed up the surrounding hills, it was sometime before the pilgrims understood the killer force of the unfolding tragedy.
A few lucky ones escaped but most others were caught in the swirling waters and are yet to be traced. Many saw their near and dear ones being swept away but couldn’t help them. Torn between the option of saving their own life or risking it for others, the choice was tough.
One young man had no such confusion when his teenage daughter slipped from his tight grip and fell into a deep ditch by the gushing river. In a flash, he handed over the custody of his son to his relatives and against everybody’s advice, jumped into certain death – he wanted to do all he could to save his daughter.
Despite the fall having injured him, he searched for his daughter for over two hours before locating her lying unconscious near the river bank. He then carried her on his back all the way down the mountain to safety.
Others who escaped into the mountains surrounding Rambara had a harrowing time. While some lost the battle against hunger and cold, most wandered for days before they reached nearby villages or were evacuated by Indian Air Force choppers from Jungle Chatti - located between Gaurikund and Rambara.
While the government has promised to reconstruct Rambara along with Kedarnath and Gaurikund, the extremely sensitive location of Rambara may very well mean that it will not be rebuilt to its original state.
Noted environmentalist and Magsaysay awardee Chandi Prasad Bhatt has accused the Uttarakhand government of sleeping over a report of National Remote Sensing Agency and said had the government taken the report seriously, "destruction in and around Kedarnath shrine would have been much less horrific".
"The report identifies the areas around Kedarnath including Rambara, Gaurikund, Ghindurpani, and Garuriya, which have been the worst hit in the recent tragedy, as highly prone to landslides and natural calamities," he said.
The report, termed as `Hazard Zonation Mapping`, was prepared by around 100 distinguished scientists from country`s leading research institutes at the initiative of the Indian government and was submitted to the state government in 2001.
The expert panel had recommended a host of measures for the calamity sensitive area of the state and neighbouring Himachal Pradesh including planned mining, bio-technical measures for channelisation of water in the catchment areas of rivers near Kedarnath, afforestation of Rambada and Jungle Chatti areas, soil conservation and slope modification measures in Gaurikund besides construction of retention walls in Hanuman Chatti which have all been severely damaged in the deluge.
"Had even five per cent of the recommendations of the panel been implemented, the scale of destruction in and around the Himalayan shrine would have been much less horrific," he said.
With PTI inputs