Development can not be used to destroy the local culture and geography of Uttarakhand

(Asian Independent)

Environmentalists have raised concerns about the the four lane High Way or the famous Char Dham to enable the ‘tourists’ to reach the Chardhams comfortably. Roads in the Uttarakhand states have been relatively and comparatively better managed, also there is a discipline on these roads probably because the roads don’t give you much to manoeuvre as there is Pahad on one side and river or valley on the other.

Right from Kotdwara towards Satpuli, the roads are bumpy at many places and the damaged due to landslide but that is natural and can’t be stopped. The Satpuli Devpryag road too is uncomfortable at many places. This is not a high way hence it is not on the priority list.

There is no doubt that to have a highway on the Himalayan states, you will have to do it through mountains only as villages and cities are located on them but it is equally essential for us to think as to how much can be allowed. Can we make roads in the hills like between Delhi-Jaipur or Delhi Agra ? You can’t because that will only ruin the mountains and can cause severe damage to the ecological system of the area.

We need to develop new methods for our ‘developmental’ process which can preserve our biodiversity, mountains and rivers. I always felt that these are not ‘resources’ but our identity, our culture and our life. The problem is in considering ‘Land’, ‘Forest’ and ‘Water’ as resources that are ultimately used for exploitation. Ofcourse, it is also important that communities take care of them and protect them. Once they have been handed over to greedy corporations. The religious places of Uttarakhand were not like what we see in Varanasi and elsewhere. They were more spiritual and the people who would come there were not loud but respected the local traditions. The temples too were mostly localised with traditional Shivalingam there. Now, with big buildings and concrete structures, there is an attempt to homogenise these things on the lines of the Vaishnavite culture.

Uttarakhand has Shaivite tradition and impact of Buddhism too is visible on various religious places and that is why it has been one of the most liberal places in terms of food habits and culture value system unlike the Vaishnavites who are trying to impose their ‘vegetarianism’ on us. During our childhood we never had an issue about eating anything whether vegetarian or otherwise. It is also true that Uttarakhand has phenomenal Dal qualities as well as green vegetables but unfortunately even when tourists in the name of religion come, they want to eat their food. So Gujaratis, Punjabis, Bengalis would like to eat their ‘culturally’ specific food. What is the meaning of tourism if we are unable to appreciate the local food culture and encourage it.

If you are a tourist then it is our duty to protect the environment, people’s culture and local traditions. Uttarakhand without mountains and natural rivers is nothing. That is the soul of this state. We get relieved and enchanted by the phenomenal beauty of the mountains and rivers. Developmental work needs to be done with consultation with people respecting local climatic-geographical conditions.

It is painful to see the mountains being drilled and rivers being controlled in the name of ‘ tourism’ and ’employment generation’, though in reality, it is the contractors, corporate who are minting money. Ofcourse, religion is being used to promote political fortunes of leaders who have nothing in common with Uttarakhand state and its cultural identity.

You can watch in this video which I took at different places between Satpuli, Dev Prayag, Srinagar, Rudra Prayag, Agatsyamuni and Rishikesh and how the work on the Chardham Pariyojna is going on. It is painful to see the mountains being drilled and rivers being controlled in the name of ‘development’. Let us hope good sense prevails so that the beauty and spirit of the state remain intact.

Watch the video for a glimpse of ‘developmental’ work.

– Vidya Bhushan Rawat

January 4th, 2021
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