The district administration in Raudraprayag in Uttarakhand has asked helicopter companies operating in the area to create facilities like sound proof classrooms in the Kedarnath valley to minimise the impact of noise pollution from low flying choppers.
District magistrate Mangesh Ghildiyal recently convened a meeting of representatives of the aviation companies and asked them to contribute something towards the welfare of the area that funds their growth.
“It is reasonable for operators to provide two sound proof classrooms in the primary schools and three in the higher schools, where the studies are greatly disturbed by the booming noise,” .
The district magistrate also added that operators have been asked to build prefabricated outlets/sheds for the local goods and produce to improve the economy of the area.
The number of the helicopter service provider to the Kedarnath shrine increased after the 2013 flash floods that killed over 5,000 people. Many pilgrims now opt for helicopters to avoid a steep trek of 16 km to reach Kedarnath from Sonprayag. In a 30-km stretch between Guptkashi and Sonprayag, 13 aviation companies now offer helicopter services to Kedarnath shrine.
Locals allege that in order to maximise the number to trips every day, the helicopters very low that increases noise pollution. The forest department had prepared a report on the noise levels.
Earlier this year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a notice to state government and the Union ministry for forest and environment seeking reply on the “unregulated” services.
The helicopter operations were resumed only after a team of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) officials visited the valley and submitted a report with the green tribunal.
“During peak season about 16 to 20 sorties are made by each of the service providers,” said Devanand, SDM Rudraprayag.
The helicopter companies charge Rs 7500 per head to take four devotees at a time and for this sum, the choppers keep busy flying from 6 in the morning to 6 in the evening.
Environmentalist, geologists and social workers have often raised their voice against the ill effect of the heavy noise and vibrations over the ecology and people of the area.
Some of the representatives of helicopter companies said that the proposals of the district magistrate have been forwarded to their respective managements to decide over it.
“The final nod is awaited,” said one of the representatives. The helicopter services are currently suspended because of the monsoon and will resume next month.