Tourism in Uttarakhand needs to be regulated: Cabinet secretary

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 19, 2013 21:58 hrs

New Delhi: Tourism in Uttarakhand needs to be regulated in the light of last month's natural disaster that killed hundreds of people, Cabinet Secretary Ajit K. Seth said Friday.

Speaking at an event here, Seth also said there was a need to store Air Traffic Fuel at select places in the hilly region for quicker response in the event of any such future disaster.

Terming the Uttarakhand tragedy a "sudden episodic event", he said the disaster has propelled a need for a policy towards more sustainable development of the Himalayan region.

He was speaking on "Rescue Operations in Uttarakhand" at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses here.

On lessons learnt from the disaster, Seth said a National Crisis Management Committee headed by him has decided to map the extent of devastation.

The panel will categorise all the 127 glacial lakes in that area on the basis of risks they pose.

The committee will also prepare a damage extent report and make actionable recommendations, he said.

Hundreds -- probably thousands -- were killed when cloudbursts and landslides hit the Kedarnath region, causing widespread destruction during pilgrimage season.

Thousands are still missing, and presumed dead.

Seth suggested the need to revamp the Disaster Management Legislation. He agreed that apart from having a more accurate system for weather prediction, tourism in the hills needed to be regulated.

He spoke of better infrastructure, like roads and bridges, along with an alternate system of communications to handle such crises in the mountains.

He said the government was also looking into the hydro electricity dam policy in the region.

The cabinet secretary laid stress on the importance of involving local people while organising relief work and being respectful towards their cultural sensitivities.

Seth defended the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMA), saying that though there was room for improvement, it was incorrect to say that the NDMA had failed to perform its duties.

He said there was a plan to locate a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) battalion in Haridwar in Uttarakhand. NDRF teams would be located in the Garhwal and Kumaun regions too.

Seth expressed satisfaction over how the various government agencies came together for the rescue work in Uttarakhand.

The army deployed 3,000 soldiers and 12 helicopters that along with over many helicopters provided by the air force and private agencies evacuated more than 38,000 people stranded in the Kedarnath valley, he said.

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