Imposing a blanket ban on construction of houses and commercial establishments along the banks of rivers, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Monday announced setting up of a statutory body to look into planning and development of the flood-hit areas of the state.
The Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority, to be chaired by the chief minister, will take into account safeguards required to face the challenges that may arise in coming decades for the state, which witnessed unprecedented death and destruction in the June floods.
Bahuguna, who made the announcement here at a conference today, said the decision was taken by the state Cabinet considering the massive damage caused by the calamity in different areas across the state.
"The authority will consist of experts from different fields," he said.
Bahuguna, however, refused speculate on the casualty figures in the calamity, saying bodies are yet to be extricated from the huge quantity of debris lying in affected areas and the whereabouts of over 3,000 persons reported missing after the tragedy are yet to be ascertained.
"In a situation like this, being the chief minister I would prefer not to quantify a figure. Police officials who have visited the affected areas say 500-600 bodies are visible, many may be lying underneath heaps of debris and many reported missing are yet to be found," Bahuguna told reporters when they asked Congress in-charge of Uttarakhand Ambika Soni to clear the air over conflicting casualty figures doing the rounds.
The Cabinet also decided to revise the norms for relief and rehabilitation in the wake of the colossal tragedy by widening the ambit of beneficiaries ranging from small kiosks to 'dhabas' to big hotels, Bahuguna said.