Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vaishnodevi pilgrimage set to increase

SMVDSB draws up comprehensive plan to upgrade infrastructure

As the pilgrimage to world famous cave shrine situated in the Trikuta Hills is poised to increase considerably particularly from next year when the holy town of Katra will be connected with rest of the country by train, Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board has drawn a comprehensive plan to upgrade and increase all sorts of infrastructure to cater to the requirement of pilgrims.

In an exclusive interview to EXCELSIOR, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board, Mr Navin Choudhary said that since the holy town of Katra is going to be connected with rest of the country by train from next year, the pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishnodevi, which has already crossed one crore mark, will further increase considerably.

As the existing infrastructure would not suffice to cater to the requirement of the growing number of pilgrims, Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board has drawn up a comprehensive plan to upgrade and increase infrastructure right from the holy town up to the cave, he said, adding while some activities have already been started, several major steps will be initiated in the coming months.

Stating that Board has to move ahead of the time to upgrade and increase infrastructure well before further increase in the yatra, the CEO of the Shrine Board said that all the important aspects like increasing accommodation for the pilgrims, improving availability of water, sanitation, widening of the track, smoothening of gradients and segregation of mules from pilgrims by installing dividers have been taken care of in the comprehensive plan.

"While upgrading and increasing infrastructure adequate steps would be taken to protect the environment and greenery of the Trikuta Hills," he added.

Mr Navin Choudhary, who is also Principal Secretary to the Governor, disclosed that dedicated mule track between Katra and Adh Kuwari has been made through and work on protection walls was going on at a required pace and would be completed within a period of next two months.

"As soon as bare minimum infrastructure is created on the track, ponies carrying material of Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board will be shifted to this track at the initial stage", he said, adding "this would reduce the load on the existing track and help in controlling mule dung menace".

Stating that adequate steps are being taken to upgrade the water supply facilities on the entire Yatra track, he said, "work on major water supply scheme for the holy town of Katra is also going on", adding "we have also got a hint about the availability of ground water in the Bhawan area and attempts would be made to tap the same".

"The Shrine Board is also increasing manpower and upgrading mechanized equipment to ensure complete sanitation on the entire Yatra track as well as in Bhawan area", adding "the trial of the mule-dung based bio-gas plant is going on smoothly and the same will be put to use on commercial basis by the end of current month".

In response to a question, Mr Navin Choudhary said, "for transportation of mule dung to the plant we are exploring the options of shifting the same in battery operated cars or outsource the same", adding "though battery operated cars option is most suitable and economically viable option yet final decision in this regard would be taken within next some days".

About the accommodation facilities for the pilgrims, the CEO said, "it has been the continuous endeavour of the Shrine Board to create adequate accommodation facilities for the comfortable stay of pilgrims", adding "the structure of Parvati Bhawan near the cave area has already been raised and the finishing work is going on. By the end of current year, the Parvati Bhawan would be ready for use by the pilgrims".

He further informed that Shrine Board has decided to raze Durga Bhawan complex to raise new infrastructure with sufficient capacity and better facilities. In order to ensure that pilgrims don't face any inconvenience due to razing of the complex, the same would be done in most sensitive manner, he said, adding demolition of complex would start from May and completed within a period of next three months.

"Since the shortage of lockers is being felt due to increase in the number of pilgrims, we have identified three locations where facility of 3000 additional lockers would be made available", the CEO said.

"We have also prioritized widening of Bhawan-Bhairon Ghati-Shanjishat track and replacement of existing tiles on this section as well as on Shanjishat to Adhkuwari track besides smoothening of gradients for the convenience of the pilgrims", Mr Navin Choudhary said, adding "while upgrading and increasing infrastructure enough thrust will be laid on protection of environment and greenery".

Responding to a question regarding ropeway project, the CEO of Shrine Board said that process of obtaining necessary clearances was going on. "We have the plans to initially put ropeway to use for transportation of material as this would minimize the load on the track", he added.

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