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Devotee casualties reignite demand for Yamunotri ropeway

Uttarkashi: The deaths of 24 pilgrims on the Yamunotri trek route since the opening of the temple portals on May 3 have reignited the long-pending demand to construct a ropeway to the revered shrine. Priest community and social activists point out that efforts to construct a ropeway from Kharsali village (the winter abode of goddess Yamuna) to Garudganga (500 meters before Yamunotri shrine) were started back in 2006 but the construction work never started. 
"Pilgrims have to trek five kilometers to reach the Yamunotri shrine. Elderly pilgrims and those who are not acclimatized to high-altitude conditions are more vulnerable to developing health issues during the trek. Therefore, work on the ropeway project should be started at the earliest." said Pawan Uniyal, a member of the priest community. He added, "Most of the pilgrim deaths took place due to cardiac-related issues. If not for the negligence of the state and the central government, the 3.7-km-long (aerial distance) ropeway would have been constructed long ago and some of these deaths could be prevented. In fact, residents of Kharsali village even gave up 1.5 hectares of land for the ropeway project but not even a single stone has been laid in the name of construction even after 16 years."
Echoing a similar opinion, Dinesh Rawat, a social activist from Barkot, said, "The five-km-long trek is narrow and steep. Also, pilgrims riding on ponies or palanquins lead to congestion on the route. Also, people will stop coming to the Yamunotri shrine if the pilgrim death toll continues to increase. Thus, the construction of a ropeway is necessary to enable people of all age groups to visit the shrine comfortably." Meanwhile, Abhishek Ruhela, district magistrate, Uttarkashi, said, "A proposal has been already sent to the state government by the tourism department. Besides, a team of experts is also coming to conduct a field survey for the Yamunotri ropeway on May 29. We are hopeful that the construction work will start soon."

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