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Snow brings century old problems in Shimla

The historic town and international tourist destination, Shimla is glaringly ill-equipped with vision to handle even a few inches of snowfall.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2011 20:32 IST
Archana Phull

The historic town and international tourist destination, Shimla is glaringly ill-equipped with vision to handle even a few inches of snowfall.

Repeatedly, year after year, Shimla faces similar problems when temperature dips below zero degrees or there is a snowfall.

The water supply pipes freeze, it becomes dicey to walk on roads, and traffic goes off in Shimla and on National Highway-22 ahead of it, power supply trips, making it a tough living for the locals and a disappointing stay for tourists, at least for a couple of days.

Shimla has a populace of 1.6 lakhs and it receives 23-24 lakh tourists every year, with a good number in winters also.

"We had few centimeters snow on the new year eve on December 31, and then few inches on last Saturday. But you see how life was thrown out of gear in town for past three days," said Sukhchain Singh, 43, a local resident.

In Shimla, with no plan in place to clear snow from roads, except for those leading to VIP colonies in town, there were umpteen cases of people reaching hospitals with fractures this year too.

What further exposed mismanagement by Shimla Municipal Corporation was that even the roads leading to the state hospital were cleared after two days of snowfall.

Like every year, a common sight in areas (at height above the Mall) was of the locals and hotels desperately trying to warm water pipes through hired labour to restore water supply.

In some parts of Shimla, the pipes are still frozen, and in some the pipes burst.

But who is at fault for all this.

" Its like that only in snow. The Municipal Corporation cannot be blamed for this. The Corporation is always prepared and acts according to plan. But if people think that MC would do everything for them, its unfair,'' said Commissioner, Shimla
Municipal Corporation AN Sharma. He said only the private pipes have frozen, for which people need to have their own arrangements.

Asked about an alternate to existing water supply pipes in Shimla, he said," I don't know about any other option. In olden days, people used to tie around jute ropes to prevent water pipes from freezing. Now people look to MC for everything," Sharma said.

Local woes apart, the other questioning relates to government's ambitious plans to make Himachal Pradesh a all weather destination, and sell its snow for tourism promotion.

"With what vision the government is encouraging winter tourism in Shimla. Some tourists, who come up to the Queen of Hills with the charm of snow, pack off early crying for basic comfort," said a travel agent, Ajay Ohri.

A tourist, Rakesh Verma, echoes another concern.

"The much publicized tourist destinations ahead of Shimla on National Highway-22 on Shimla- Narkanda road have no meaning in snow. The road gets blocked, and the frost makes it a risky drive on it for days together. Nobody is there to put the things straight.

It's a bad experience, whether we stay in Shimla in snow or plan a trip ahead,' he said.

Another problem is the failure of authorities to regulate traffic by toeing the vehicles, that skid off on frost in the main roads. " It leads to traffic jams for hours together at times, which is harassing,'' said some tourists.

The tourism officials do admit that absence of all these arrangements during snowfall brings bad publicity for winter tourism in Shimla. "It needs to be taken up for a coordinated effort at the level of government,'' said an officer in the tourism, who was not willing to be quoted.