Who doesn’t want an easy Chardham yatra every year, especially after the 2013 disaster of flash flooding in Kedarnath, there was a surge in demand for regularising the Char Dham pilgrimage in the devbhoomi of Uttarakhand. There was an urgent need for mobile roads which would have been possible to make the evacuation procedure in such future calamities much faster and easier. The Chardham, all-weather roads were the conception of that model which not only has its objectives related to the fast evacuation during disasters but also making the Chardham tourism safe and more convenient for the visitors. The Chardham has its relation to the increase of tourists in the area hence, most of the percentage is dedicated to the Chardham situated in the Kedarkhanda of ancient Uttarakhand, now known as Garhwal. The partial development project is also dedicated to the Kumaon in the area of Tanakpur and Pithoragarh.
In late 2016, PMO launched the most awaited project of it’s in the region of Uttarakhand. The goals of its completion were targeted as 2019 but the complications in the area of legal procedure had its impact on the rest of the lower Himalayan ranges. It also has the essence of being an indicator in detecting and monitoring climatic change effects due to the GreenHouse emissions in the world. Hence, unsustainable practices of cutting of highly sensitive Deodar trees in Harsil area not only changed the indicators of environmental monitoring but also led to the destruction of the natural fauna. The concerns were majorly related to the ideation of the project, which was not only clumsy but also caused a danger to the commuters, as in some of the hills en route to Rishikesh-Kedarnath and Rishikesh- Badrinath were cut at ninety degrees which is strictly prohibited in the young fold mountains like Himalayan ranges. Many dumping zones made at the banks of the Ganges not only created danger for commuters during the Chardham yatra season of 2017-19 and 2019-20 but also became the death knell for the pilgrims. The landslides in the under-construction road during monsoons were common and became the limiting factor for local commuters. As this season of 2019-20, Chardham yatra broke all the records of tourism in the region, the traffic jams in Hills and plains (Roorkee- Haridwar) highway became a headache for the local commuters. The tourist not only spent the day-long jams in the small stretches of 12 km but many of them complained of the regularisation of the season by the government.
It was and is easily observed in its whole inception and the ongoing Chardham all-weather project that, the parallel plan of making the Chardham tourism smooth would have been executed. The formation of alternative routes not only would have reduced the heavy traffic jams but also would have generated revenue in the route that is less traveled.
The second considerable glitch in this project is the access to the employability to the local labors. With the start of the dream project of this government, there were no steps taken to study and monitor employability in the region, though NHAI released its report in 2017 for the expenditure of the all-weather roads budget, there wasn’t any dedicated report on whether the employment was given to the local vendors or the vendors from the other states. This concern is also the point of interest as the project is driven by central government and the local and regional interest is not concerned by the central authorities. The increase in the migration of the natives from the remote Himalayan region in the past two years also shows that the developmental projects are actually showering prosperity to their regular contractors. The reflections of reverse migrations in the region are negligible as it was promised while the project was passed.
There are also some clear signs forms past two years that the Uttarakhand government has an interest in promoting liquor tourism from the backend. This approach includes opening of liquor breweries in the Himalayan region. The Chardham routes have availability of liquor stores which makes it clear that the tourism infrastructure development in the region has perspective of attracting tourists and not the spiritual seekers in major. Well, the model to drive liquor tourism is not as bad as it sounds, the major tourist places in the West with no spiritual backgrounds to it are surviving on liquor tourism, but the main concern is on the liquor stores available on the major yatra marg to Char Dhams of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. The liquor tourism in these routes can send a literal message about the business making model of Uttarakhand.
Another concern is the environmental effects that will be caused due to the increase of single-use plastics in the hilly terrains. Though, this process is still taking place in the present but increase in the tourists’ centers and recreational space will increase the use of Single-use plastic. Hence, there must be a policy to be drafted by the government enforced by environmental activists to regulate the food brands to market their products in the region. Even in today’s time the Himalayas are facing backlash in solid waste disposal pattern, where most of the single-use plastic is burned in the region, the expansion of the tourism program in the region will lead to the plastic disaster in the Chardham yatra marg.
By Nitin Chandola
Listen to Dehra’s Mobcast discussion on Chardham Yatra all-weather road at