Tag Archives: Rains

To tour Kerala on internet, use gestures

This site is a new experience
This site is a new experience

Planning a trip to Kerala in south India? If you go on the internet, you will no longer have to use a mouse or keyboard to browse a section of the of Kerala Tourism website – you can instead gesture! In a pioneering development, the Kerala State Tourism Board allows users to access the site, www.when-it-rains.com, with their webcams – the site can be navigated through gestures alone. The website takes viewers to rain-washed plains, misty hills and majestic backwaters, and the interface takes place through sheer gestures.

This is one of few tourism websites anywhere in the world to use gesture-controlled technology for navigation. Visually stunning images of the monsoon shot by Facebook fans of Kerala Tourism are used in the new website, developed by Stark Communications, the official marketing and communications agency of the Kerala Tourism department.

Monsoon in Kerala is a lovable experience
Monsoon in Kerala is a lovable experience

The website tracks movements and gestures through the webcam and responds to these to allow the user to browse the site. People around the world can now sit in front of a computer or with a smart phone and enjoy multifarious experiences, even before they actually arrive in the state. The gesture-controlled website is yet another step in extending to the world the many experiences that Kerala offers to a visitor. Kerala Tourism is a pioneer in integrating technology in promoting its destinations to audiences across the country as well as abroad. The department’s award-winning website (www.keralatourism.org) is one of the most-visited tourism websites in the world.

1.1 Lakh evacuated from Uttarakhand

Locals sit in a gondola as they cross the Alaknanda river from Govindghat to the Hemkund Sikh temple following flash floods in Uttarakhand state
Locals sit in a gondola as they cross the Alaknanda river from Govindghat to the Hemkund Sikh temple following flash floods in Uttarakhand state

Seventeen days after the Uttarakhand disaster, the mammoth multi-agency rescue operations to evacuate all stranded pilgrims and tourists concluded on Tuesday, 2nd July 2013 with a group of 150 people being taken to safety from Badrinath. In all, around 1.1 lakh people stranded by flash floods and landslides after monsoon rains pounded the hill state on June 15 were evacuated by thousands of personnel of the Army, IAF, Indo-Tibetan Border Police(ITBP) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), who braved all odds. Now some locals and Nepali labourers remain there who will be evacuated gradually as the damaged roads are restored.

     The IAF, which concluded its air sorties, has however stationed 10 choppers in the state for about a week or so for use in any operations, an IAF official said in Delhi. The rescue mission was marred by tragedy when an IAF Mi17 V5 chopper carrying 20 personnel and crew crashed killing all on board. Though the rescue mission has concluded, authorities faced a daunting task of cremation of badly decomposed bodies in Kedarnath area with bad weather hampering this process for the fourth day.

Stranded Hindu pilgrims and villagers make their way across a landslide as they make their way down the mountain in Govindghat following flash floods in northern Uttarakhand
Stranded Hindu pilgrims and villagers make their way across a landslide as they make their way down the mountain in Govindghat following flash floods in northern Uttarakhand

Another challenge is removing tonnes of debris from the shrine premises in Kedarnath as there are no roads to transport heavy equipment like JCBs there for the purpose. The process of cremating bodies in Kedarnath has also not resumed. A team of health experts and trained police personnel has been despatched to the shrine but the exercise could not begin due to bad weather. Disposal of bodies is an uphill task due to a variety of factors including bad weather and breached roads.

     A Bridge in makingA total of 36 bodies have so far been disposed of in Kedarnath with 60-65 more lying visibly on the ground yet to be consigned to flames. There is every indication the process will take long. Bodies in Kedarnath and adjoining areas like Rambada are stated to be already in an advanced stage of decomposition on the 17th day of the tragedy. Supply of relief to affected villages continues to pose a challenge to the administration with a vast network of roads and bridges still damaged in the area.

ITBP personnel rescuing flood victims with the help of rope and ladder in Uttarkashi
ITBP personnel rescuing flood victims with the help of rope and ladder in Uttarkashi

The bridge over Alaknanda at Lambagar is badly damaged which will take at least 2 to 3 months to be repaired. The BRO is working on it. Taking relief material to remote villages due to poor connectivity is a major problem. Though choppers are being used for the purpose the exercise is confined to just a few areas. With Gaurikund-Kedar highway still closed, there is foodgrain shortage in at least 170 villages in Kedarghati area in Rudraprayag district. But relief material has been dispatched to Kalimath, Chandrapuri and Sauri areas in the district. Gangotri highway in Uttarkashi district is blocked at eight points, while Yamunotri highway is closed from Hanumanchatti to Yamunotri making it difficult to take relief material to affected villages.

Huge loss to Tourism

The devastation caused by torrential rains that lashed Uttarakhand in Himalayan India earlier this month is expected to cause a loss of Rs 12,000 crore to the state’s tourism industry in the current fiscal, says a PHDCCI survey.

A lot would be needed to done to restore the tourism infrastructure in Uttarakhand
A lot would be needed to done to restore the tourism infrastructure in Uttarakhand

“Uttarakhand was expected to generate Rs 25,000 crore from tourism in 2013-14. Although Rs 5,000-6,000 crore have been generated from the first three months alone, the state is expected to realise only Rs 5,000-6,000 in the coming months as major tourism destinations have been washed away by recent floods,” SP Sharma, Chief Economist at the PHD Chamber said quoting the survey.

     Tourism sector contributes 25 to 30 per cent of the state GDP, and therefore the state exchequer is likely to take a major hit, Sharma added. The survey conducted by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry also estimates that around 11 per cent of Uttarakhand’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) for this fiscal has been ruined in terms of prospective tourism earnings on account of the flood in all its riverbeds.

     “GSDP of Uttarakhand at factor cost at current prices stands at about Rs 1,07,548 crore as on March 31, 2013. However, 11 per cent of the GSDP has been washed away in terms of prospective tourism earnings due to floods that engulfed the state in mid of this month,” Executive Director at PHDCCI Saurabh Sanyal said.

     Moreover, the reconstruction of damaged tourist destinations are expected to put a burden on the state government, the survey said.

Tourism worst hit by calamity

Tourism has been worst hit in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand in northern India, with pilgrims fleeing the disaster-struck state and tourists cancelling their bookings. May and June are considered peak season for tourism in the state with hotels registering 100 per cent occupancy, but now, most wear a deserted look and several have also been washed away in the floods. “Every year, 23 to 24 lakh pilgrims arrive in the state for the Char Dham Yatra — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The disaster has hit tourism badly.

A view of damaged houses is seen following floods and cloudburst in Srinagar, Uttarakhand, India
A view of damaged houses is seen following floods and cloudburst in Srinagar, Uttarakhand, India

“If we consider government figures, thousands of hotels, inns and residential houses have been severely affected by the flood and hundreds among them have been obliterated,” Joint Director, state Tourism Department, A K Dwiwedi said. State Tourism Minister Amrita Rawat, said, “The disaster has affected tourism in the state badly and it will take a long time to assess the damage caused thereby.”

The natural calamity has temporarily forced closure of the annual ‘Char Dham Yatra’, considered the backbone of Garhwal economy. Some hotels in worse-hit areas like Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts have been completely swept away in the deluge.Tour operators claim that due to the tragedy brought about by torrential rains last week, business in this sector in cities like Mussoorie and Nainital has come down by 20 to 30 per cent.

Ganga Singh Bhandari, a Delhi-based tour operator, said the next two years might be very difficult for tourism sector.   “My hotel beside Kedarnath temple got washed away in the torrent. Of 12 buses we had sent from our centres in Delhi and Rishikesh, some are yet to return. We also lost three pilgrims and people are very scared now.” “Even if people want to go there, how will they go? The roads have been destroyed, hotels and inns have been ravaged. I wait every day in my office to see a tourist but I don’t think we’ll seem them for another two years,” Bhandari said.

S P Kochhar, manager of a group of hotels said, “Now, only corporate customers are staying in our hotels or those who aborted their Char Dham Yatra midway.” Around 9,000 people are still stranded in the state and rescue operations are going on with Indian Air Force having launched its biggest ever helicopter-based rescue operation in the state. Tourism officials are advising tourists and pilgrims to stay away from state tourism circuit for at least one month.

Mass cancellations of bookings have prompted travel operators to change their plans and they are asking tourists to visit the state after September. “For the time being, we are asking tourists to refrain from travelling to Uttarakhand but we are building new and better travel plans for them in the upcoming months,” Rohit, an employee of a travel company, said.

Crisis in Himalayas

After deluge of last week, agencies are facing a herculean task of saving as many lives as possible before weather strikes again in Uttarakhand state of Indian Himalayas. Still few thousands are stranded waiting to be either airlifted or trekking down the hills to safety. Deads are still countless. Calculating casualty figures is still a distant possibility. With rain catching up again in coming days, its a race against time to save the remaining ones.

 

A Himalayan Tragedy