Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

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Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

i

Photo: Raju Gusain

KEDARNATH SNOWFALL

Reconstruction work amid fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures in Kedarnath

Raju Gusain @rajugusain

Kedarnath, the Hindu pilgrimage town in district Rudraprayag which became an epicentre of disaster in 2013 floods, is draped in a white sheet after receiving its third snowfall of the season on Friday, 8 January.

The snow-covered peaks and landscape presents a fairyland-like setting.

The stunning landscape might woo the photographers, nature lovers and avid tourists, but for inhabitants the weather presents a challenging situation with the mercury dipping below seven degrees Celsius and the maximum barely crossing 14 degrees Celsius.

Also read - Kedarnath lake, where Gandhi's ashes were immersed, wiped out

Kedarnath has so far received snowfalls on 28 November, 18 December, and this past Friday, 8 January.

The freezing temperatures hasn't failed to dampen the spirit of the reconstruction team that is mainly involved in shifting construction material and doing welding work of three-tier safety walls behind the Kedarnath temple. Presently, a team of 150 labourers, mostly Nepalese, are engaged in the reconstruction work.

The workers are manually shifting heavy iron gutters from Sonprayag to Kedarnath, which is a trek of 21 kilometres. The team of six workers, moving like robots and matching each other step by step, can be seen carrying a 150-kg iron pipe, 18-21 feet in length, effortlessly. The workers take about two full days to manually move the iron pipes to their final destination.

Back in June of 2013, Kedarnath had become an epicentre of the devastating flash-flood that hit the state of Uttarakhand. Over 5,000 pilgrims lost their lives, while thousands went missing. The services of India Army and India Air Force were used to evacuate trapped pilgrims from Kedarnath.

The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, India's pioneering mountaineering institute, is involved in the reconstruction work in the holy township that is located at the altitude of of 11,755 feet above sea level.

Annually, thousands of pilgrims from different parts of India visit the Hindu shrine to pay their respect to Lord Shiva.

Nehru Institute of Mountaineering's principal Colonel Ajay Kothiyal told Catch, "We are doing welding work, shifting construction material, etc there days. Due to freezing temperature we have abandoned cement work and will resume this again when the weather improves. We expect to finish the construction work of bathing ghat, before the start of pilgrimage season."

The workers have been supplied with clothing - that includes jacket, gloves, shoes, cap and goggles - to beat the extreme chill. Barring occasional visits of MI-17 helicopters - which supply heavy reconstruction material and are used for VIP movement - only the sound of welding machines and functioning crushers echoes within the valley. The workers have been staying at Kedarnath, during winters, for the second year in succession.

Also read - Why the Ganga is dying. And why it matters: Mallika Bhanot

Due to ongoing reconstruction work, stunning photographs of the temple township has been made available.

Usually, once the portals of Kedarnath are closed for a six month winter break, all inhabitants abandon the township. This time, all inhabitants left when the shrine was closed for winter break on 13 November. Only the labourers working on the reconstruction were left behind in the extremely challenging climatic conditions.

Post the 2013 disaster, nobody used to stay in Kedarnath in winters, but the flash floods have forced to Uttarakhand state government to continue construction work there to improve facilities for tourists. In a move to create tourist facilities, the labourers are working in the difficult climatic conditions. About 60 mules are used daily to shift kerosene oil, diesel, petrol, ration, etc from Sonprayag to Kedarnath.

The revamping work in Kedarnath begins at 8.30 am and concludes at 5 pm everyday. An extra supply of tea is provided to the workers to beat the cold. One of the labourers, Devendra Bisht told Catch, "Sunshine from 9 am to 4 pm makes our work a little comfortable."

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Raju Gusain @rajugusain