Rewalsar, the sleepy town in Mandi district which serves as a pilgrimage spot and a backpacker's destination, is at the receiving end of an indifferent state government that has failed to realise the town's tourism potential.
Located at an altitude of 1,350 metres above sea level, the town, which has been named after the revered lake around which it has been built, houses six historic places of worship - three Hindu temples, two Buddhist monasteries and a gurdwara that was built in the 1930s on orders of the then king of erstwhile Mandi state, Raja Joginder Sen.
Though Rewalsar is the only tourist destination in Mandi district that has all-weather connectivity, it lacks sufficient parking space, sewerage for saving the Rewalsar lake from contamination, decent road connectivity, a bus stand and places for night stay.
Moreover, encroachments and haphazard construction in and around the town surrounded by a deodar and fir forest have added to the decay.
Apart from the town being the main attraction, areas neighbouring rewalsar have seven lakes associated with the Hindu epic Mahabharata that depict the escape of Pandavas from the burning palace of wax. But, due to lack of proper care, planning and publicity, the lakes have failed to attract tourists.
Environmentalists have warned a number of times that the holy Rewalsar lake would lose its existence if the government failed to initiate timely steps to preserve it. The lake is considered sacred by Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.
Rewalsar gram panchayat chief Tej Singh and Rewalsar nagar panchayat president Bansi Lal said the government and tourism department had released grant-in-aid for the area's development regularly in the past, but the initiatives had failed to serve the purpose. “To save the Rewalsar lake, we need a master plan and huge amount of funds and involvement of environmentalists, geologists, archaeologists and engineers,” Lal said.
Town still awaits Rs 1 crore grant
In January 2013, Mandi deputy commissioner (DC) Devesh Kumar had Rs 1 crore for the development of Rewalsar. However, there has been no follow-up on the announcement that was made by the DC while addressing a joint meeting of Tourism Development Corporation, Bhakhra Beas Management Board (BBMB) and other officials. The DC had said that the BBMB would help in de-silting the lake and that a check dam would be built along the lake to restrict the entry of rainwater and soil particles that resulted in the death of the fishes.