Himachal rains: Death toll over 60; state needs a year to rebuild, says CM Sukhu
Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu consoling people affected by the devastating heavy rains in Himachal, which he blamed on climate change and lack of structural designing in the state. Pic: PTI

Himachal rains: Death toll over 60; 'state needs a year to rebuild', says CM Sukhu

Himachal CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said that the estimated damage in the two devastating spells of heavy rain is about ₹10,000 crore. But he promised to rebuild the infrastructure and invited tourists to come to the state after the monsoons

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It will take Himachal Pradesh a year to rebuild its infrastructure wrecked by the heavy rains. However, the state is prepared to face this mountain-like challenge, said Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Wednesday (August 16).

In an interview with PTI, he said the estimated damage in the two devastating spells of heavy rain – this week and in July – is about ₹10,000 crore.

Rains this week triggered landslides across the state, blocking roads and bringing down houses. About 60 people are dead, and more feared buried under the rubble.

The chief minister said it takes time to rebuild roads and water projects. But the government is speeding up the process. “We have to get the infrastructure fully restored within a year. I am working with this in mind, he said calling it a "big challenge, a mountain-like challenge."

"But we are not going to back away,” he said.

The state government will continue with its vision to make Himachal Pradesh “self-reliant” in four years and the country’s “most prosperous” state in 10 years.“But it will take a year for us to rise from this tragedy,” pointed out Sukhu, whose Congress government came to power last December.

Lack of structural designing and climate change

He laid the blame for the massive damage due to the intensity of the rains since Sunday on the "lack of structural designing" in the state. This was the “first time” about 50 people died in a single day, he added.

Buildings obstruct the natural course of water flow at places, and there is little attention paid to designing structures. “The river didn’t enter homes, the homes entered the river,” he said.

He stopped short of identifying the widening of roads by the National Highways Authority of India as a significant cause, saying most of the landslides weren’t at the edge of these roads. The CM said climate change could have played a part. It never rained like this before in Lahaul-Spiti, he said, giving an example.

Building rules to be strengthened

Further, he indicated there would be new guidelines and tougher implementation of building rules. He cited issues like proper drainage, studying the soil on which buildings are being constructed and a consideration of weight-bearing capacity of floors.

He also called for a change in the central government norms for helping states that face natural calamities. The hill states and those in the north-east should get more, he said.

The Centre gives ₹1.5 lakh for repairing one kilometre of damaged road, he said. “That’s nothing,” Sukhu said, adding that Himachal Pradesh gets ignored because it has small representation in Parliament, but the state should be given a special package by the Centre as it is the “lungs of northern India”.

He urged tourists to continue visiting Himachal saying the broken roads to Shimla and Kangra Valley will be restored. “And after the monsoons, come anytime,” he invited tourists asking them to celebrate Diwali and the New Year in his state.

(With inputs from agencies)

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