Authorities struggle with record number of tourists
The record breaking number of tourists coming to Uttarakhand has exposed the reality of Yatra preparations which the authorities had been claiming were in place. With the shifting of blame from one department to another, it is the locals and visitors who are bearing the brunt of traffic jams and other problems resulting from the inability of the authorities to handle such crowds. An idea of the numbers can be gauged from the fact that more than 3.5 lakh people have visited Kedarnath since May 9 whereas about 1.5 lakh had visited during the corresponding period last year.
The routes in Haridwar, Mussoorie and places in Chamoli, Pauri and Rudraprayag districts are jam-packed with traffic. With monsoon season not far away, the pending construction work of the all-weather road project may further exacerbate the woes being faced on mountain roads.
Director General (Law and Order) Ashok Kumar said, “In the last two years tourism in Uttarakhand has show exponential growth. The process of construction of roads on Yatra route has disturbed the old process too. It is a challenge for police too, but we are doing everything we can. So far the Yatra is going on smoothly, without any big incident. We are doing our best.”
When asked whether police deployment on Yatra route will be increased, he said, “The deployment of force for traffic is already full, but only force cannot work to keep the traffic operation smooth. The conditions of the roads and narrowness are important factors too.”
When asked about the issue, chief engineer, National Highway and Head of the Department (HOD) Public Works Department (PWD), Hari Om Sharma said, “The debris on the road during the earlier construction work was cleared before the start of Yatra season. In fact, the contractors had stopped the cutting work too. The work of black topping on the roads is going on at some places, because of which traffic may get disturbed, but it is not a major factor behind traffic jam. Basically, this year the number of tourists has increased drastically. Maybe this year road construction is giving them trouble, but next year it will be a smooth ride.”
He further added, “About 40 percent of the construction work which we started is complete. The roads have been widened considerably.”
Rising numbers a good sign, more focus needed on infra and tourist facilities- CM
Chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said that petrol and diesel are available in adequate quantities on the Yatra route. There was some shortage of these fuels for a couple of days in some places but now the problem has been resolved. The CM said that the number of pilgrims and tourists this year has been much more than expected. The number of visitors so far is two to three times more than in the previous year. The increasing number of tourists should be viewed as a good opportunity for the youth of the state, he said, adding that more focus will have to be laid on developing infrastructure and tourist facilities to cater to the rising numbers. Talking informally to media persons after a programme, the CM said that the service sector has been the State Government’s priority. He said, “We granted industry status to tourism and we are also seeing the results of this decision. The youth of the state should come forward in the tourism sector and while earning themselves should also provide employment to others. There are immense possibilities in tourism, wellness and adventure tourism. The State can also emerge as a wedding destination,” he said.
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