By: Karam Chand Nanta
Another winter gone by. While it did snow eventually, and loads and loads of it, I’m wondering if this late season snowfall has really helped the farmers and rivers. Because the gestation period for a snow to feed the rivers over the year is from four to six week. The late snow has just melted or has been washed down.
Flashback to December and January when it should have really snowed, I stood desperate looking at the spotless sky and hoping to receive snowfall today or tomorrow. This wait seemed to be longer than expected and made me think: What lies beyond tomorrow for us?
I question myself: Have we been preparing for this extreme situation over years? Taking stock of situation in and around Shimla city and district, strengthen my fear of being responsible for slowly turning it into a critical, irreversible and irreparable phenomenon bringing us closer to a climatic and ecological disaster, yet another Himalayan blunder.
The ‘Queen of hills’ seems to have lost its glory. With morbid, mindless actions on the name of development, we stand on the brink of destruction, where in we have progressed to create a rift of imbalances with man-made or the physical environment and the nature or the fragile ecology and sensitive environment. Time and again we forgot to live in harmony with mother earth and respect its natural phenomenon governing our very existence.
For the second consecutive year, the New Year went without any trace of snowfall in Shimla city, which will mar the selective but sensitive tourist influx. Tourists are likely to opt for other destinations, which can offer them snow and allied sports activities. This year Narkanda and Kufri Skiing slopes were at the mercy of nature to start its basic skiing courses, which were postponed time and again. In order to sustain its present tourist market before it is rocked by the far reaching impacts of global warming, Government should seriously consider developing alternate tourist hubs in middle Himalayas. Chanshil range offers potential ski slopes at par with Manali and will serve a dual role of being a regional tourist centre served by Shimla. Not forgetting the trickle down effect on economy of the region seen in income and employment generation both direct and induced.
I personally perceive a pressing need to revitalise ambitious initiatives like the Ford Skiing Village in the Chanshil Range, which has been shelved due to political melodrama. It can prove as a gold mine for Himachal Government once operational, providing world class facility for tourists. It is likely to attract sensitive and sensible international tourists interested in skiing and high altitude mountaineering, generating more revenues to the government. These unexplored tracts in the annals of so called tribal region are rich in natural herbs and flora known to few researchers and nature enthusiasts. All the government needs is to tap these hidden potentials to bring them on the world tourism map. Intelligent investment in improving road infrastructure to improve the accessibility and mobility to this region can turn these far-fetched ideas in to reality.
Infrastructure is backbone of any ambitious initiative, and Shimla, Theog, Kothkhai, Jubbal, Hatkoti, Rohru and Chirgaon are adequately equipped to provide what it takes for sustainable tourism development. The label of backwardness, has resulted in neglect of the whole Chauhara region. We the people of the region really need to decide whether we need such initiatives, which can bring in investment worth crores and ensuing employment opportunities for natives of the region. To harness these natural potential, leaders of the region need to take proactive role to persuade policy and decision makers and above all the political leaders to make these projects happen to enliven the life of desperate people of the region.
The brighter face of such initiatives is crystal clear, and fruits of which can feed our coming generations but at the same time its darker face like socio-economic and environmental impact cannot be ignored. This can be taken care by doing a comprehensive EIA emphasising on sustainable environmental management plan at local as well as at the regional level. Stringent policies and control regulations need to be framed for development, implementation and management of such initiatives. These integrated policies and strategies for tourism development shouldn’t be shelved among heap of files and remain forever on papers but government should facilitate in effective implementation and execution.
It won’t be long before other tourist destination like Mussoorie and Nainital in Uttranchal, Manali in Kullu district and Srinagar and Gulmarg in Jammu Kashmir will dominate Shimla in all respects. The competition is likely to grow and deciding factor will be the destination’s USP, and skiing resort with quality infrastructure is one such USP which can undermine all other factors and help Shimla to revitalise as a high end tourist hub at regional scale by growing its share of domestic as well as foreign tourists.
At the same time temporal dimension to tourist activity with spatial distributions across various destinations is a must in order to sustain the economy of the region throughout the year. Showcasing and marketing of tourist destinations as a product needs a proactive approach on part of concerned agencies. Also all destinations within and around Shimla need to be equipped with quality tourist infrastructure to meet the growing needs of information age’s money and quality conscious sensitive tourists.