Helicopter services to Kedarnath suspended, pilgrims stranded

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After the nine helicopter companies failed to produce evidence of environmental compliance to a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, the chopper services to Kedarnath have been stopped.

File photo of Kedarnath shrine

The Uttarakhand Civil Aviation Development Authority (UCADA) on Tuesday suspended the services over non-compliance of the NGT directions on height and level of noise that the choppers generate, said an HT report.

The helicopters flying to Kedarnath are not supposed to fly at an altitude lower than 600 metres, but it was found that they were flying at an altitude as low as 150 metres. This increases the noise levels in an ecologically sensitive area like the Kedarnath Valley.

Earlier this year, UCADA had asked the helicopter operating companies to install a GPS tracking device on the helicopters flying through the Kedarnath Valley.

An Indian Express report quoted chief engineer with UCADA, G Seetaiah, as saying that "none submitted the required reports of the GPS coordinates to us".

The reports containing the GPS data was supposed to be submitted to UCADA so that the altitude of the helicopters could be tracked.

"However, none of the operators submitted the report, so we had to suspend helicopter operations," Seetaiah added.

Facing problems due this are the pilgrims who have come with elderly parents or grandparents. The elderly cannot trek to the shrine so many are now stranded due to the suspension of services.

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