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Retrieving the lost legacy

ISP Delhi Bureau 

Can a golden past be revived with mass participation and public will? The experience of Chamoli people in Uttarakhand testifies it in affirmative. It took a young village head to inspire and engage people to dig their lost heritage for them to explore the golden past. 

Mohan Singh Negi, a pradhan of Irani Village of Chamoli along with residents of ten adjoining villages of the valley are reviving the lost natural beauty of a hilly terrain which was once a tourist heaven. 

Uttarakhand is a land renowned for its serene tourist destinations. From pre-colonial days adventure tourists have been trekking the mountains of these divine lands and British times improved the infrastructure with roads and railways developing in the foothills. And hence, travellers from Central and Southern India visited the place for other than the pilgrimage purposes. 

One of such popular destinations has been the Chamoli region which is rich in natural bounties. The location has innumerable unexplored tourist destinations. One of them is the Durmital area which is situated in a valley in Chamoli district. ‘Tal’ means lake and the senior local residents narrated stories of a natural calamity in 1971 which submerged the whole area including the 5km long Durmital Lake in the village. 

Mohan Singh Negi told ISP that the village veterans narrate the story of the manmade Durmital lake of 1870 which was crowded with tourists and their boats. On digging the area by the residents recently, they found an iron boat submerged in the area and further excavations are underway. 

“In 1971 there was a cloud burst and the whole area was washed out in running water. The lake broke and the water got drained along with many houses. There was no effort to explore the place until few youngsters came forward to take up the mission,” says Negi to ISP. 

The region is now fast developing. There are many tourists who are now visiting the place to witness the restoration plan. Mohan Singh Negi and his fellow volunteers are doing the exploration work on a volunteer basis. The lake restoration committee of the village is also trying to map the old area which will reveal the real dimensions of the lake and terrain of the adjoining areas. 

Mohan Singh Negi and fellow villagers are confident that along with the restoration of the lake, the residents will also be able to restore the flora and fauna of the region which is rich in medicinal plants. Local efforts to revive the lost heritage is an encouraging sign of public awareness towards nature and its preservation. 

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