Indian government taking precautions for Himalayan pilgrimages

Posted Jun 15, 2014 by Sravanth Verma
The newly-elected Indian government has highlighted the safe conduct of the annual Chardham pilgrimage in the Himalayan mountains as an important priority.
Last year, a flash flood in these regions, primarily around the sacred Kedarnath temple, resulted in thousands of deaths. One of the many problems faced by the government was the identification of victims. The government is implementing biometric registration for all pilgrims who go on the Chardham pilgrimage.
The Chardham Yatra is a pilgrimage to four holy places in the Himalayas — Kedarnath temple, Badrinath temple, Gangotri, the source of the river Ganga, and Yamunotri, the source of the river Yamuna — that are traditionally visited by thousands of Hindus every year. Each of these places are high altitude sites at over 10,000 feet. Kedarnath is the highest at almost 11,700 feet above sea level.
A Chardham Yatra control room has been established by state tourism development board, and a battalion of the State Disaster Response Force is on standby. Various locations have also been earmarked for the construction of 60 helipads across the region.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is coordinating with the government to provide weather and rainfall forecasts at 14 critical locations. The state government will then put up these forecasts on display systems along the Chardham Yatra route at the towns of Rishikesh, Srinagar (in Uttarakhand), Rudraprayag, Joshimath and Uttarkashi, to give updated information to pilgrims. The IMD has however, intimated the Centre that it has an "inadequate observational network" for "mountain weather services, localized short range severe weather warnings, Nowcast warnings and block level forecasts."
The Prime Minister's Office is said to be monitoring the progress of the yatra, according to the Economic Times newspaper.