(Parikshit Sharma) Himachal, the place hot dwellers look upto. Himachal, the mountains of snow. Himachal, the land of deities and gods. Himachal, the place we kept visiting for more than 20 summers during our vacations.
Being a north Indian state, having valleys and mountains, boundless greenery, bone-chilling weather and a paradise from the scorching heat of the plains. I, as a child, had been a regular traveler to this beautiful state promoted with a perfect tagline “Unforgettable Himachal”. Since my childhood, I have a myriad of memories which flashes back the moment I get the privilege to enter this beautiful state.
The cool and pure breeze that enters my nostril is a nectar for the lungs when my bus leaves Parwanoo and touches the state’s border. Nature lovers and people with respiratory conditions are suggested to move to the hills for this pure and clean air, for which they are ready to pay hefty amounts.
However, the situations and the beauty is not the same as it was during my childhood. With the fainting memories due to public works and new developments in the state, the topography, climate and my memories like many others are dwindling slowly. The weather has a rise in the average temperatures from the earlier to the current. The once green lavishly colored hills and mountains are becoming bald. Picture perfect mud and clay built houses dotted with vibrant or dual tone colours are replaced with concrete structures. The cool breeze which once unfurled the silken tresses in the buses and cars, is full of dust and dirt as a repercussion of the uncontrolled, unmanaged construction starting from the entry point of the state.
I remember gasping for air while climbing the busy markets of Shimla from the bus stand covering lower bazaar, ram bazaar, middle bazaar and finally making it to the most featured and promoted place of Shimla, The Mall. The Mall, now fail to witness this gasping for air by the tourists as the people now prefer the convenience and find the Tourism department operated Bi-level lift taking people from the Circular road to The Mall in 10 minutes, which used to take almost half an hour and meeting of strange eyes on the crowded bazaar pathways.
The development of infrastructure comes as a boon and a peril for the locals and the environs of the state. People are thrilled and excited with the development of the state and on the other hand also face many problems. The economy is on the boost-up mode, but the environment is facing a lot of pressure.
Tourists from the neighbouring states come to Shimla for the cool breeze, green lusciously drooping trees and the relief from the scorching heat. However, will it remain the same for times to come? This burning question will be answered with a NO by the locals. They are facing the climate change. The hoteliers are facing problem with providing the potion of life (water) which was once free and brought a chill down the spine with its temperature even during summers. But, this water is available for a cost of Rs. 50 to Rs. 200 ranging upto Rs. 500 and even more during the scary scarcity of water in summers and Tourist season. The problem of parking of tourist vehicles has brought felling of trees for the construction of multilevel parking. Still, the problem of parking persists. More land is being converted from the agriculture and once green land to the construction of summerhouses for the richie rich, hotels for tourists and flats for the homeless or those who can afford multi flats in Shimla: one for self and one for the P.G. Accommodation.
Where should the buck stop? The question remains unanswered and shall make the erstwhile summer capital of the British Raj-Shimla as a transit location for the tourist commuting to emerging tourist destination like Naldehra, Narkanda, Theog and Kumarsen-Kotgarh region of upper Shimla.
Article is written by Parikshit Sharma – resident of Indore city of Madhya Pradesh. Writer is academician, traveler and avid photographer.