Shimla: Kufri is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Shimla. However, what greets you is the stench of horse droppings and their soil scattered everywhere. There’s no safe place to step on. This filth could be a thing of the past if the ambitious project for reclaiming the lost glory of Kufri as a tourism spot materialises in its true spirit.
A pony-ride in Kufri (Pic: Lalit Kumar)
The success of the project depends on the acceptance of the project by the local pony-owners. This project while will clean up the place, will also shut down the business (pony-rides) of the pony-owners. Pony-riding is one of the biggest revenue generators in the place. The project aims to find alternative livelihood means for the pony-owners.
There are about 100 ponies in Kufri and the number goes up during the tourist seasons. Management of the pony soil and stench is a big problem in the area. According to a study, the gases emitted by this stench and by the ponies themselves also contribute to the global warming and faster melting of the snow in the area.
The leader of this project is Dr Aparna Negi, who is an academician in Himachal Pradesh University’s Economics department. Alarmed by the degradation of the site, she brought home some intellectual help from Netherlands. She involved the residents of Kufri Panchayat who have taken proactive initiative for putting Kufri on path of recovery. Their action is backed by leading hotelier Dhian Chand, of Kufri Resorts.
After a report prepared by the Netherlands based consultant, Joseph A C M Van Odenhoven for comprehensive rehabilitation of the pony-owners, Shimla district administration has also come forward to provide support to the pony-owners financially as well as conceptually to switch over to allied tourism activities such as home based tourism, floriculture, herb cultivation and vegetable farming.
Any government land available in the Panchayat, would be utilised for constructing a village haat, which is likely to be turned into central point of the tourist destination.
The Shimla district administration has also asked the Kufri Panchayat to arrive at a consensus and submit a comprehensive report on how the place (all villages) can be uplifted by connecting all wards with pukka paths, implementation of Total Sanitation Programme and bringing up Community Halls.
The Environment and Science & Technology departments have also agreed to provide technical and financial assistance for propagation of vermicultuere and herbiculture in the area.
Departments like tourism, environment, science and technology and locals (pony owners) have already held several rounds of meetings to discuss the earliest possible alternatives that can be adopted by the pony-owners.
Pradhan of Kufri Panchayat Sant Ram tells HimVani, “There are at least 200 houses in the Panchayat and at least 70 people are ready to adopt the Home-Stay Scheme, while 73 people are willing to adopt vermiculture and herbal aromatic plantation. A resolution by the Panchayat for switching over from pony business would be initiated for debate any day in the coming months.”
Other non-biodegradable waste of plastic bottles and plastic packets are also causing environmental hazard to the local environment.
The state government’s latest proposal to impose a complete ban (earlier the ban was restricted to plastic bags of below 70 microns) on use of plastic bags in the state might partially take care of the menace. However, the basic problem which is increasingly becoming the biggest repellent for tourists coming to Kufri, is proposed to be handled by a complete shut down of the pony-ride business here.