2013 Kedarnath Disaster Relief

2013 Kedarnath Disaster Relief Efforts by Space for Nurturing Creativity Members

A multi-day cloudburst poured non-stop rain on the North Indian state of Uttarakhand, on June 16th 2013, causing devastating floods and landslides. Most of the destruction at Kedarnath was caused by a sudden rapid melting of ice and snow on the Glacier, becoming the country’s worst natural disaster since the Tsunami of 2004. We immediately put our daily school activities on hold for the remainder of the monsoon season and joined our community in lending a hand in relief efforts.

First and foremost, considering the livelihood of our area mostly thrives on farming and trekking-tourism, as well as the fact that each monsoon season is prime time for potential natural disasters (as we have seen during the 2013 Kedarnath Flood), having a greater concern for the environment and its sustainability should be a major focus in the Government Primary Schools’ curriculum…. read more about our Scope: Local Concerns, Together We Face

Residential houses, agricultural fields, and several animals were harmed. The infamous Government behavior has been far from helpful as it is more aggravating than comforting. However, it is due to the will power of local people here that they continue to strive and earn a living in these very mountains. People living here on the banks of the river and in the mountains have become accustomed to such struggle but the Kedarnath disaster has caused wounds which can only heal after many years.

Our Relief Efforts with Local Community:

After a series of meetings and surveys, working alongside members of SBSSS, and Himalaya Trust, we became deeply involved in distributing food rations, clothes, school bags, solar lanterns, kitchen utensils, blankets, tents, and other supplies to aid in re-sustainability of those affected by the tragedy.

16th June 2013 saw the beginning of heavy rains in the Kedar valley and continued right till the 19th. It came to light on the afternoon of the 19th that a flood in Mandakini in Kedardham has resulted in the drowning of many mules of local inhabitants. Vehicles of tourists and pilgrims sunk away too. The bridge on the Mandikini River joining the Kedarnath road was broken. The uninterrupted rains made it impossible to reach certain places. 18th of June gave a clearer picture of what was happening. It was informed that there were 30,000 people including tourists and localities in the Kedar valley on the day of the flood. More than 20,000 of them drowned in the floods. All roads in the Kedar route were completely destroyed. Electricity lines were broken too. It also became difficult to contact people through phones.

On the 19th of June, 8 members of the Space for Nurturing Creativity (SNC) and 2 members of the Swaraj Bahuudeshya Sahakari Samiti (Multi-purpose government committee) went from Khumera to Phata to help flood victims. By then, work to rescue tourists from Kedarnath through helicopters had begun. Our team helped those tourists who reached Phata from Kedarnath in helicopters in the search of their relatives and companions. We contacted SDM Jakholi who was recruited for this disaster and helped those who were lost in the jungles, providing them with water and biscuits. We also sent one member each, as a guide, in helicopters to help send necessary stuff to those in need. On the 20th too, we helped tourists find their relatives and distributed water, biscuits and other snacks among flood victims in Kedarnath, Rambada, Garudia, and Gaurikund through helicopters with the help of ADM.

On the 24th of June, 2013 we had a meeting in the Khumera village at the residence of a district Panchayat member (Triyugi Narayan) to start analyzing the situation, making reports of damages caused in the flood affected regions, and plan how we can get instant help. This meeting was attended by Secretary of State of the Sarvodaya Mandal Mr. Devendra, Member of the Zilla Panchayat Ms. Urmila Bahuguna, Secretary of Swaraj Bahuudeshyi Sahakari Sammiti of Masta Mr. Aatmaram, the team of SNC and local youth. It was thereby decided that in the next 5-6 days, a detailed analysis and survey of the affected villages would be conducted and organizations, ashrams, and individual volunteers willing to help will be contacted to collect necessary relief material. A distribution committee was set up to distribute things among victims.

Based on the decisions made in the meeting, the survey process went underway in two phases:

  • In the first phase, a survey was conducted with instant relief as the motive in mind, to determine the number of actual casualties (deaths) according to each District, Block, Valley, and Village.
  • In the second phase, a detailed survey was conducted of those families whose income was totally dependent on business through Kedar valley tourism. We analyzed and reported the current situation and future possibilities of livelihood for women and children of those families. We were helped by members of SBMA, Anjanisain in the second phase of our survey. This second phase was conducted from the 10th of July till the 19th. Results of this survey can be made available to you if required.
  • During the relief material distribution, we accompanied members of NDTV, IBN TV, Zee TV to the affected areas and got them to grips with the situation there. While doing so, members of the media made detailed inquiries about SNC and its activities and also recorded them. During this entire operation, several discussions on strategies of working in the flood-affected regions were held with members of various organizations.

    Once the instant relief activities were taken care of, we thoroughly went through our survey and analysis and realized that there was a need for:

  • Educational facilities for children in families who have lost beloved family members (earning male members mostly) in the floods.
  • Means of earning a living for youth whose livelihood relied heavily on business from the Kedar valley through horses, mules, shops, etc.
  • Emotional and financial relief to women and other members of families who have lost the head of their families in the disaster
  • Long-term and sustainable medical facilities
  • Our Relief Efforts with Children:
    In the months to follow the initial disaster, we closely worked with children who were affected by the Kedarnath tragedy, by first conducting an extensive survey to determine their mental state, after having faced such trauma and loss. Daily we provided nutritious meals for over 120 children, ages 5-12, as well as conducted creative activities for their continued education in various general academic subjects in which they would normally be involved, had their school not been closed due to the flood. Furthermore we created and maintained a safe space and therapeutic atmosphere for the release of their intense emotions, through activities such as drawing, drama, meditation, and music. We continued working with these children for three months, until a greater sense of stability returned to their lives and their own local schools reopened.

    We recognize we have a chance to make a real difference in the minds of the younger generations who are due to inherit this “dev bhumi”. Thus we see the need for a comprehensive environmental / self-sustainability curriculum, that not only promotes: solar energy vs. damns and powerhouses that reroute our rivers and displace those who live on their banks; organic farming over the use of genetically modified seeds or pesticides which are in fact injurious to our own health; a “leave no trace” low carbon footprint concern for the lush nature that surrounds us, by refusing to use plastic bags still offered in the market, reducing the amount of trash we produce, but also inspires creatively re-using various recyclable items, that until now get tossed in the ditches or streams and invariably end up washed away into the Mandakini River by landslides every monsoon, ultimately poisoning our farms and water supplies.

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