Tourism dips in India’s flood hit northern state

Thursday, 1 August 2013 01:59 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: More than a month after the devastating deluge in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand, tourism declined in the hill town of Nainital, which is a major tourist attraction. In mid-June, flash floods and landslides unleashed by early monsoon rains killed at least 1,000 people, rendered tens of thousands homeless apart causing massive damage to property, standing crops and livestock. Managing director of development authority of Kumaun region in northern Uttarakhand state, Deepak Rawat, on Tuesday (July 30), said that the destruction caused due to the floods took toll on tourism as infrastructure was extensively damaged. “The absence of tourists and the cancellations have caused us a loss of around 99.2 millions rupees. Other than this, we have faced loss of property of around 44.1 million rupees, as the verandas of several TRCs (Tourist reception centres) have swept away and several huts on the way of Kailash Yatra (Holy pilgrimage) are damaged,” said Rawat in Nainital. The calamity - which has been come to be known as the ‘Himalayan tsunami’ due to the torrent of water unleashed by burgeoning rivers and glacial lakes - has devastated the area which is a popular Hindu pilgrimage destination creating a fear psyche among the tourists. President of Nainital Hotel Association, Dinesh Shah said that tourism has taken a hit due to an advisory issued by the authorities urging the tourists not to visit the hill town during the monsoon season. “Till today tourists are avoiding to visit the hilly areas and I would say that one big reason behind this is the statement issued by authorities which said that people should not visit hilly areas in the rainy season. And it is because of this statement that we have not been able to recover,” said Shah. The main source of income for many families and backbone of the northern state - the tourism industry is drying up after the flash floods. Many hotels and restaurants built on river-banks collapsed into the rushing waters, while others were buried under landslides. It could take months, if not longer, for the sector to recover. For thousands of years, pilgrims have flocked to Uttarakhand’s majestic Himalayan mountains, drawn by the ancient Hindu belief that it was here that deities such as Lord Shiva and Vishnu resided. The region, with its lush green valleys dotted with countless temples and shrines, is often referred to in Hinduism as “Dev Bhoomi” or the “Land of the Gods.” As a result, the popular pilgrimage route known as the “Char Dham Yatra”, consisting of the four temple towns of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees annually, all seeking salvation and a guaranteed place in heaven. Now all four shrines, as well as a popular Sikh temple, the Hemkund Sahib, have been closed down, and the numerous small towns and villages that line the main 645 km (400 mile) Char Dham route are like ghost towns.