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Mandakini's original course by Kedarnath restored

 Experts at the Nehru Mountaineering Institute (NMI), in collaboration with a team from IIT Roorkee, have brought the Mandakini river in Kedarnath back to its original course, a year after the Uttarakhand deluge. The river had changed course after the flash floods of June last year. After the deluge, the river, originating from Chorabari glacier, had brought down large boulders weighing tonnes from its upper course and wreaked havoc in the Kedarnath valley. Swelling dangerously, the river altered course and began flowing to the right of the Kedarnath shrine, while earlier it flowed to the left. The Mandakini also merged with the Saraswati river just 50 metres away from the shrine after the deluge. The combined flow coursed barely 20 metres to the shrine's right.


After the snow started melting last month, the state government roped in NMI to re-route the Mandakini and return it to its original course, before monsoons caused the river to swell to unmanageable proportions. Days of brainstorming preceded the start of work at a height of 7000 metres. "It was a very challenging task because bringing river to its original course at such a height has not been carried out in Uttarakhand. So we roped in experts from IIT Roorkee and others to plan out the exact roadmap," Col Ajay Kothiyal, principal of NMI said. The team of experts scanned the 100-metre stretch upwards to the point from where the river carved out its new course. Kothiyal explained that on over 100 metres of the river's track, the experts used specially designed concrete blocks and placed them strategically to facilitate the river's switch to its original track.


He said that the technique was provided by an international company, which in nutshell is about the strategic placement of several wire-mesh concrete blocks which acts as "energy dissipator" in the middle of the river track. "After these blocks were placed, the river slowly started changing its course to the left side. Our team cleared the original track of the river to ensure that it smoothly changes its course," Kothiyal said. After changing the course of the Mandakani, the experts also changed the course of Saraswati.


"As the river returned to its original course, we also started putting concrete blocks on the vacant track. It took ten days for completing the task. Now even if the water level shoots up in the monsoon, the rivers will stick to this course," said Kothiyal. Experts like Kireet Kumar of the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, however are skeptical: "Himalayan glaciers are receding and changing the course of river should have been avoided. The real test of the artificial blocks used in the new course of the river would be the monsoon," he said.


Times of India, Delhi, 18th June 2014