ver a dozen villages affected by the flash floods in Uttarakhand are gradually sinking as river Mandakini widens its course and breaches both banks.
The floodwaters of 16-17 June brought with it a huge amount of silt and boulders which got deposited on the riverbed thus raising the height of the water, says Lt Col Rajesh Singh of the Border Roads Organisation. Singh's team is engaged in rebuilding the road from Rudraprayag to Sonprayag, but it is proving to be a Herculean task. "We build the road today and notice the next day that a portion of the road has caved in," Singh laments.
At places like Sonprayag the riverbed has increased in height by 70 metres, at Kund it has risen by 5-7 metres. "Earlier the river had a much lower bed and there were hard rocks on both banks preventing the water from eating into the hills. But now the river is directly hitting the hills and gobbling them up every day," says Singh.
This correspondent visited one such village, Simi, in Guptakashi where most of the houses have developed cracks or collapsed and now lie buried under rubble.
Anand Sharma had a sprawling hotel, which he built by selling off a portion of his land and taking a loan of Rs 20 lakh. The hotel now stands tilted, with its ground floor almost collapsing into the ground. "There is no way we can save the hotel. I am ruined," he says.
The irrigation department was tasked to build embankments on both sides of the river to stop the massive erosion. The work had not started when we paid a visit to the village.
60 km from Guptakashi, the residents of Panjana village are waiting for the government to provide them with an alternate place to live. Assistant engineer Arjun Singh Panwar, who is building the road from Mayali to Guptakashi, admitted, "Sooner or latter the silt will have to be removed if we have to save these villages."
The story is the same in Kedarnath, which is being cleaned for a puja on 11 September. Bodies that once lay scattered all over the place have been cremated, but thousands of them are feared to be buried in the 20-30 feet high silt and huge rocks that have covered the temple town. Mandakini is flowing on both sides of the temple town and gradually eroding the mountain on which the shrine is located.