Dehradun: Rattled by the Himalayan tsunami that ravaged Uttarakhand, the state government on Monday clamped a blanket ban on construction of houses and commercial establishments along river banks and announced setting up of a statutory body for development of flood-hit areas.
In Delhi, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said financial aid will be sought from multilateral bodies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the devastated areas in Uttarakhand.
Facing flak for the mushrooming illegal constructions on river banks, many of them used as hotels and tourist lodges, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna ordered a blanket ban on construction of houses and commercial establishments in such areas.
Unveiling a slew of steps being taken at a press conference here, he said a Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority, to be chaired by him, will be set up to look at, among other things, safeguards required to face challenges that may arise in coming decades.
Amid conflicting figures of the death toll in the calamity, the chief minister said he would prefer not to quantify a figure. "Police officials who have visited the affected areas said 500-600 bodies are visible, many may be lying underneath heaps of debris and many reported missing are yet to be found," he said.
While the Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker claimed that the number of dead may touch 10,000, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has pegged it at 900 and over 3,000 missing while the National Disaster Management Authority has a lower figure of 580.
After a preliminary assessment of the extent of the collosal tragedy, the Uttarakhand Cabinet today decided to revise the norms for relief and rehabilitation by widening the ambit of beneficiaries ranging from small kiosks to 'dhabas' to big hotels. "Everyone who suffered losses from owners of small kiosks to hotels will be given compensation," Bahuguna said.
On day 16 of the calamity, only 36 bodies have been disposed of in the worst-hit Kedarnath shrine area, officials said.
Over 200 pilgrims and locals were evacuated from the flood-hit areas where another 680 still remained stranded.
Despite bad weather at places including Dehradun, chopper operations began on Monday morning in Chamoli district to evacuate about 300 pilgrims and 600 locals from Badrinath shrine to Joshimath.