Ropeway To God's Abode: PM Modi Launches Ropeway Project To Kedarnath Dham In Uttarakhand

Ropeway To God's Abode: PM Modi Launches Ropeway Project To Kedarnath Dham In Uttarakhand

by Amit Mishra - Oct 21, 2022 04:07 PM +05:30 IST
Ropeway To God's Abode: PM Modi Launches Ropeway Project To Kedarnath Dham In UttarakhandVisitors to Kedarnath, Uttarakhand (Unsplash)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a two-day tour of Uttarakhand, laid the foundation stone for Gaurikund-Kedarnath ropeway project on Friday.

This project once completed will benefit thousands of pilgrims who visit the Kedarnath shrine every year.

Kedarnath Temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Lord Shiva. The temple is a part of Char Dhams and is the first of the Panch Kedar pilgrimage sites in Uttarakhand.

Nearly 3,500 metres above the sea level, Kedarnath is located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini River in Uttarakhand's Rudraprayag district. 

The Pandavas are believed to have built the shrine and Adi Shankaracharya revived it. Kedarnath suffered massive damages when flash floods hit in 2013.

Poor accessibility

The temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 22 km trek from Gaurikund, which takes the whole day. The motorable distance between Sonprayag and Gaurikund is 8 kms. Pony, manchan service and helicopter services are also available to reach the temple.  

From May 8, when doors to the Kedarnath Dham were opened this year, over 14.59 lakh devotees have already visited the shrine out of which over 1.3 lakh devotees availed the helicopter service.

However, the region is extremely vulnerable to chopper crashes due to weather changes and difficult terrain.

As many as seven people including two pilots were killed in a crash on 18 October, when the helicopter carrying pilgrims from Guptkashi to Kedarnath burst into flames after crashing near Jungle Chatti. 

Further, because of the steep gradient and narrow road, it is difficult to construct motorable road to reach the destination.

Keeping these factors in mind, and in an effort to develop an eco-friendly connectivity to the Kedarnath temple, it was decided to take up the project to develop an aerial passenger ropeway.

Gaurikund-Kedarnath Ropeway

The ropeway project to Kedarnath Dham was first announced by the Prime Minister during his visit to the temple in November 2021.

In line with PM Modi's announcement, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in January 2022 invited bids for the development of Sonprayag-Gaurikund-Kedarnath ropeway having aggregate length of 12.97 km under Parvatmala Pariyojana.

While the earlier plan was to build a ropeway from Gaurikund to Kedarnath shrine, but it was later decided to shift the starting point to Sonprayag.

The project will be developed on design, build, operate and transfer (the Hybrid Annuity) basis, at an estimated cost of Rs 985 crore.

Set to be longest ropeway in the world at an altitude of 11,500 feet (3500 m) above sea level, it will significantly reduce the time taken by pilgrims to reach Kedarnath shrine.

The ropeway will enable them to travel from Sonprayag to Kedarnath in 60 minutes.

Environmental Hurdles

The ropeway project passes through Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary area in Rudraprayag. A total of 26.43 hectares of forest land was proposed to be transferred to the State government for the ropeway project.

Given the nature of the project, which needs to be carried out in forest areas, environmentalists have been strongly opposed to such a move in the ecologically fragile region.

However, the, National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in its 70th standing committee meeting in October 2022, chaired by environment minister Bhupender Yadav, approved the proposal for forest diversion. This cleared the way for the development of the ropeway project.

The proposal was passed by the State Wildlife Board in June this year and was sent to the NBWL - which is the highest decision-making body for clearing projects in wildlife reserves and protected areas.

With all approvals in place and land acquisition already initiated, the expected completion date of the project will be November 2023.

With the restoration work of the temple completed and the enhanced ease of accessibility through new ropeway, the religious tourism in Uttarakhand is all set to get a massive leap.

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