Though people have been fully evacuated from the Kedar valley following the devastation on June 16-17, thousands of mules, horses, bovines and dogs are still stranded at various places in the valley and face imminent starvation if not rescued soon.
The inefficiency of the Animal Husbandry department and apathy of the Government towards the stranded working animals which amount to crores of rupees invested by locals, is unjustifiable. People for Animals, Uttarakhand member secretary Gauri Maulekhi said this following her return to Dehradun from the Kedar valley where volunteers worked along with locals and Army to rescue about 2,000 stranded animals.
Horses and mules have played a vital role carrying many visitors and goods to Kedarnath, Hemkund and other pilgrimage centres. They have been the economic backbone of the regions supporting tourism and maintaining supply chains in remote places without road links.
Maulekhi said, "Even after stranded people have been rescued, the authorities have left thousands of animals to fend for themselves on isolated pockets in the mountains surrounded by deadly landslides or treacherous currents. The Uttarakhand High Court in April this year had set a cap of 4,500 mules in Kedarnath area, but corrupt officials allowed over 10,000 mules between Gaurikund and Kedarnath on the day of the calamity. No Government veterinarian was available in the affected areas till July 3. The Animal Husbandry relief teams have been charging fees for treatment of injured animals from farmers who lost everything in the calamity," she said.
According to the PFA, 250 mules are still stuck in Rambada Bazaar, 350 at Ghingorpani, 10 in Kedarnath Bazaar, 600 in Kedarnath valley, 50 at Gaurikund (trans-Mandakani) and five at Sonprayag. "About 1135 animals including mules, cows and buffaloes are stuck in Hemkund area because a 60 feet temporary bridge over Alakhnanda was removed on June 29 by the army. Two more bridges are required at Pulna and Ghangaria on the Hemkund track to rescue 300 mules. Seven bridges are needed to rescue the stranded animals in Kedarnath area," said Maulekhi.
PFA has demanded that adequate funds be allocated for relief to animals and at least one per cent of the Rs 1,000 crore aid announced by the Prime Minister for Uttarakhand be spent on veterinary clinics and night shelters for livestock in the mountains. A concrete disaster plan needs to be drafted and the Animal Husbandry department should also undertake the animal census which it is supposed to conducted but has not done so yet.
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