On October 15, it was a victory for the villagers as they constructed a 3 km motorable road connecting Bhatkwali with Bainoli village without felling a single tree.
What cannot be achieved with words, can be achieved with actions. The villagers residing near Karnaprayag were agitated by repeatedly hearing the grievances of the forest officials who were denying the construction of a mountain road. As the officials were speculating the felling of a large number of trees while making the road. When the water reached above the heads of the villagers they thought of taking the matter in their hands. More than 300 villagers belonging to different villages near Karnaprayag in Chamoli district joined hands and did a laborious job. Men, women and children belonging to different age groups worked in harmony with nature for constructing the road. They worked diligently for 8 to 9 hours a day and without felling a single tree they were able to build a 3 km long motorable road within 10 days. This commendable job was appreciated by the media. In an interview with Times of India, 56-year-old ex-servicemen who was involved in this initiative said, “We strongly believe in preserving the environment and all of us had vowed not to chop down trees at the cost of building the road. Luckily, nature was also in harmony and there were not many trees in the route that the road took.”
Life was difficult earlier as the villagers had to face a lot of problems due to inaccessibility of motor-able roads. As most of the villagers belonged to the mountainous regions such as Bhatkwali, Chorasain and Bainoli near Karnaprayag which is about 200 km away from Dehradun, the state capital of Uttarakhand. People had to face a lot of difficulty due to adverse geographical conditions. As these villages were located in high altitude regions varying between 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level, the villagers had to face a lot of problems because of the back breaking roads the ever changing weather which made the journey even more difficult. Therefore, the villagers were eagerly waiting for the proposed road to be built under the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojna. However, the forest officials objected and denied the project as they said it involved felling of a number of trees so they didn’t gave a green flag to the project. With this the high hopes of the villagers were shattered at once they said “All of us held a meeting and decided to build the road all by ourselves.” They followed the survey plan which was made prior to the objection of the forest officials for making the road.
The villagers used Eco-friendly techniques for making the road. They used natural materials like sheets of rock and soil which were extracted from the terrains to build stone walls on the side of the road.
Even women helped in constructing the roadway as they had to face a lot of problems while bringing fodder for the cattle from away places, collecting firewood and going to the market. Traveling a long distance for healthcare facilities and sending the children to school it was a strenuous task. Pushpa Devi, a village woman says, “The villagers simply donated their precious time and energy for constructing the road and no substantial cost was involved in the construction process.” Women showed up in large numbers for making this project successful. An agitator’s group called Sangharsh Samiti was formed which encouraged the women to come forward and lend a helping hand for executing the project. Maheshwari Devi, the member of the Mahila Mangal Dal of Bhatkwalu village, says that women were motivated to join the project since they knew the hardship of travelling through arduous routes in the mountains. “All of us were eager to see motor-able roads connecting our villages with the rest of the world thereby, making easy accessibility for better healthcare and education.” “When the forest department officials kept on delaying clearances, we decided that building the road ourselves was the fittest response to them.”
These villagers have set an example of man’s will to accomplish anything behind all odds. The simple villagers who didn’t possess modern machines carved a route while using basic tools like chisels and hammers. Although, their battle doesn’t seem to end here as the forest official at Gopeshwar, the zone under which the villages lies, said that the department would soon conduct a survey of the road to check whether the news is true or not.