Ecostani: If not climate change, too many people would surely kill Himalayas | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Ecostani: If not climate change, too many people would surely kill Himalayas

Jun 16, 2024 11:26 AM IST

Between June 1-13, Shimla, once a small summer capital of the British empire, received half a million tourist vehicles with hotel occupancy of close to 100%

In June this year, there was a traffic jam just below Chanshel, a remote picturesque location at Himachal-Uttarakhand border in Shimla district, which till 20 years ago, was accessible only on horseback or foot.

The tourist rush has increased in the state capital Shimla and its surrounding regions. PREMIUM
The tourist rush has increased in the state capital Shimla and its surrounding regions.

Between June 1 and June 13, Shimla, once a small summer capital of the British empire, received half a million tourist vehicles with hotel occupancy of close to 100% in thousands of hotels and homestays in and around the capital city of Himachal.

href="https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/tourist-influx-brings-business-boom-to-shimla-101718476811693.html">The roads to Shimla (hometown of this author) are choc-o-bloc with vehicles, and people spending hours on roads and remote places such as Kasol near Manali, which remained jam packed. So much so, that locals in Shimla prefer not to venture out in the town during weekends as there is no place to park vehicles and even to walk freely on quintessential The Mall Road and The Ridge.

Yamnotri in Uttarkashi district in Uttarakhand also witnessed a massive traffic jam in later part of May due to a huge influx of pilgrims on a narrow road leading to the religious place.

Till late 1990s, Yamnotri had a small temple, at the origin of the Yamuna river, with a narrow single carriageway. Pilgrims were few with not more than a couple of vehicles parked near the temple.

All has changed with popularisation of Char Dham pilgrimage with people from across India and abroad flocking the four Dhams in Uttarakhand, especially in the summer months. So much was the traffic on the road to Yamnotri that the police had to regulate vehicle movement by allowing only a limited number of vehicles at a particular hour.

At Rishikesh, the gateway for Kedarnath and Badrinath, the two other Dhams in Uttarakhand, long traffic jams were usual this summer with over 1.2 million pilgrims having visiting Char Dhams since May 6 when the yatra started as compared to five million that visited in entire season from April end to November end in 2023.

This year, the state government estimates that pilgrim number to be almost double of what it was last year. And most of the pilgrim places in Uttarakhand look more like tourist hotspots than places of spirituality with littering of plastic and other modern human waste.

The huge tourist/pilgrim influx in the north western Himalayas states is happening at a time when Himachal and Uttarakhand are witnessing unprecedented heat wave with temperature over 40°C recorded at several places such as Una and Bilaspur in Himachal and Haridwar and Uddam Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand for almost a month now.

“This is one of the longest heat wave conditions in north-western Himalayan region, where temperatures normally don’t go above 35°C, in recent decades” said India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist Naresh Kumar.

Many natural water sources in the hills have dried up, the hot conditions have led to a wild spread of forest fires destroying thousands of hectares of forests. Drier than usual winter has resulted in poor horticulture crops for the second year in a row. It appears that state governments are less concerned about climate change induced impact on locals and are promoting visitors-based economy.

Unlike earlier years, the tourists are reaching far-off places in the two states.

For instance, Chanshel in Rohru tehsil is close to 200km from Shimla and one takes good eight hours to reach there. Tourists are reaching there in unprecedented numbers.

In 2023, when the rain played havoc in Himachal Pradesh, close to 2,000 tourists were stranded in the interiors of pristine Spiti valley.

Also Read: Chardham Yatra 2024: Over 7 lakh pilgrims visited Kedarnath since May 10

Remote Sahastra Tal in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, where nine trekkers including a 71-year-old died on June 5, remains busy with trekkers around the year.

The business of hills has well passed its carrying capacity.

In 2020, the Centre had asked the 13 Himalayan states to conduct carrying capacity studies of its hill stations. After the 2023 devastating floods in Himachal, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it has reminded the states about the studies.

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