The snowfall in Shimla last week just flattered to deceive. While newspapers and the Met department went gung-ho with the snowfall in the month of December after many many years, it was disappointing to see just a thin white sheet just for a few hours. While the selfish heart in me prayed that hope it stops so that I don’t get stuck, the environmentalist in me prayed that the fall didn’t stop.
May be the God listens to the selfish mind in us. And I’m sure it’s just not me who prayed for it to stop. The majority of the people would have prayed for it to stop, because of the hardships all face – travellers getting stuck half way, water pipes getting frozen, etc. However, it’s been years since I heard that electricity wires got snapped because of heavy snow and poles got uprooted.
Call it coincidence or just that my prayers got heard twice earlier. About four year years ago, it had not snowed till mid-January. Jokingly, I declared at a family get together, that if it snowed by next morning, I’ll burn a full pack of Dhoop in Indra Devta’s name. It was a bright starry evening. But by the morning, it had snowed by almost six inches. I kept my promise. All my family members were laughing and joking at me and my prayer. Similarly, two years ago too, I made the promise and the prayer. It was heard once again. But then I was on a holiday and had to be back in Delhi by a particular date. It snowed the night and the whole next day. And I was again praying that hope it stops now as I don’t want to get stuck in Shimla itself. This time it snowed without my prayers though, but as I’d gone to attend a marriage and in an interior area, I’d been praying that hope it stops snowing and was worried how the baraat would go back.
We all have to face hardships during snow, but it’s a happy scenario the whole year around if it snows well. The rivers and streams have a regular flow of water, the farmers get a good crop.
But can we just pass on the blame to global warming for the lesser snow fall? As a kid I remember, it used to snow almost three to four feet in Shimla. Kharrapathar had about six feet snow. As I grew, I often wondered, have I become taller that I do not get submerged entirely in snow or is it really that it snows less. When initially it started snowing lesser we all thought that it was a freak year. But with over ten years of very less snow, it’s high time that we got alarmed. We have to do our bit. While, the government has been pretty busy in wooing investors to the state, little is being done to save the ecology.
Though orders like the recent one – banning coal angithis in Manali and Dharamshala are welcome, a lot more needs to be done. Forest fuel too needs to be banned altogether. If someone can really take up the issue, traffic to the glacial areas like that of Rohtang Pass too should be banned. Only a couple of buses and that too carrying the local folks should be allowed. Tourists should be encouraged to trek to the regions if they want to visit it.
In Shimla particularly, instead of having more tunnels (though tunnels would certainly shorten the routes, and not only save time and fuel), a possibility of a metro rail on the likes of Delhi should be seen and explored. The best thing for Shimla is that it can have a Mudrika system, which covers almost 70 per cent of Shimla. Connecting metro rails can be had to Panthaghati and other places. This would not only give a good public transportation system but would ease pressure on roads and environment. I’ve forgotten the habit of walking in Shimla altogether. Not because I live in Delhi most of the times, but the traffic chaos just discourages me to take a walk in Sanjauli or the Nav Bahar road. I now prefer the IndUS Road but the road too is seeing a lot of traffic due to connectivity to the Jakhu temple. I think, vehicular traffic to the Jakhu temple should be stopped altogether and walking should be encouraged. The same with the Tara Devi temple. I know that the revenue of these temples has gone up multifolds after vehicular connectivity but these are only short term gains and in the long run can cause havoc and huge losses.
While we are stressing on to encourage more of tourism, instead of SEZs, it has to be seen that in the coming years, if Shimla stops getting snow, the tourist flow can get diverted elsewhere in the state (to inner regions of the state), and hastening the process of ecology disturbance. Meanwhile, water problems would only aggravate.