In the year of 1974, a group of young people decided to take on a journey which would enrich them about the culture and the nature that the mountains preserve and started a journey which now has turned into a movement to preserve the Himalayas. The history of Askot-Arakot journey can be traced back to 5 decades from now. It is a research trip organised, once in a decade, by PAHAR. Shekhar Pathak was the person who initiated the idea and has been a part of all the journeys since.
A hanging house after the flood of 2013
Shekhar Pathak says that when he started the journey no one was sure about the journey. There were no mountaineer or NCC cadet but they all had the determination to go through with it. And once they took on the journey it changed their life forever.
A ruined house
They realised how less people know about the culture and the fauna and flora that our mountains have. It was then that they decided to take on this journey once every decade and get to know more about the sensitive eco-system that the mountains have.
Devastation was unparalleled
The principle purpose of the journey is to know more about the hills, its villages and the culture. The other more important issues which became a part of the journey in later years are forest conservation and safety, women education in the hills, wild life protection and ecological imbalance due to human interference. The journey is approximately 1150 kilometres going through various villages in the central Himalayas.
River valley after the flood
The most recent journey had a very interesting finding about the exploitation of Yarsagumba or Ophiocordycepssinensis, the scientific name. Yarsagumba is a fungus that parasites larvae moths produce by their fruiting body.
The amount of Silt that came in the flood
Yarsagumba is a highly valued herb and has many remedial properties. The inhabitants know them by Kida-Jadi. It has a very wide international market and its price in the market is staggering 10-15 lakhs per kilogram. In recent years there has been a race to collect these medicinal herbs and this has caused much damage to the ecosystem of the Himalayas.
The construction work in the path of the river
People are cutting trees and burning forest to collect these and in future years it could create havocs for the people. There are mafias for its trade and this is not a very healthy sign.
The debris that came with the flood
The journey has also highlighted the damage the 2013 Himalayan flood caused in the more rural part of Uttarakhand. Media has concentrated its attention in the Kedarnaths and the more urban areas of the calamity.
The Group of Askot-Arakot singing their anthem
This journey has highlighted how the state has neglected the inner part of the state where the damage is equally devastating.
The Introduction of Askot-Arakot journey
The rivers have created silt as high as 20 feet. Many bridges were broken and colonies were swept away. The flood had high human cause.
The presenter of the journey
If the state government had not carried out the so called developmental processes without understanding the sensitive ecosystem that these rivers have, the loss could have been curbed significantly.
Ophiocordyceps sinensis or Kida-Jadi
The journey has many more facets to it and the group hopes to raise more awareness about the hills.