Heaven spots in HP hills turning chaotic

Heaven spots in HP hills turning chaotic

Heaven spots in HP hills turning chaotic

Faraway from the sweltering summer heat, just the idea of traveling up the hills into cool breeze is thrilling. If it is the picturesque Manali or Shimla, the queen of hills, you are in for a breathtaking experience. The drive to faraway Manali in Himachal Pradesh, which leads further to Rohtang Pass and beyond to snow-clad exotic destinations, is undoubtedly one of the most incredible journeys by road.

The highway linking Kullu and Manali creases the gushing waters of the mighty Beas on one side and meanders along towering mountain slopes on the other. Eateries along the riverside allow tourists, albeit at their own risk, the awe-inspiring feel of nature. A sizzling hot cup of coffee in plummeting temperature amid floating clouds by the riverside makes a perfect setting.

A Punjabi tourist would any day prefer some extra butter on an “egg-stuffed parantha” before the coffee comes in. With flowing water gently massaging feet dipped in phenomenally cold river water as it flows over, the experience is of a lifetime. It's hard to resist.

Here’s the sad part and don’t blame the nature for it. It's not anymore all that romantic. The madding crowd, loads of vehicles, administrative mismanagement and the record high footfall at these Himalayan destinations in HP is taking away the charm. Its all clogged.

These tourist destinations are struggling. A 20-km stretch would take 3 hours, even more. Township roads in Manali are anything but seamless. Small shaky metal bridges, used both by vehicles and pedestrians, are a nightmare and add to bottlenecks.

With elections in the hill state not far away, movement of VIPs aggravates the mess on roads with scant regards for those who have been waiting patiently for hours stuck in the traffic. Just when you thought you're about to reach your destination in Manali, your worry starts, and right so. What you thought would be just about another half-an-hour drive to your final destination would take a couple of hours in case you’re lucky. It's a bumper-to-bumper drive and by the time you reach your place of stay, you’ve lost much of the excitement and energy.

Manali alone doesn’t share the blame. Other popular tourist destinations like Shimla or Dharamshala, the abode for the Tibetan government-in-exile, are no better. So next time when you travel this side in the Himalayas, be prepared for some nerve-wrecking experience before you finally sink and refresh yourself with all that the bounty that nature has for you in such places no less heavenly.
Nights on roads

On a weekend, close to 2000 non-HP registration number vehicles touch Manali and the rush is bound to multiply during summer vacations in the months of May and June. Hotels are all full to capacity. There have been reports of people spending the night in cars sans hotel accommodation in Manali. Tourists inflow far exceeds the available designated accommodation in Manali. Parking lots have no space to accommodate.  

Encroachments, haphazard parking and local cabbies are spoilers. Traffic management is ineffective. A green cess of Rs 300 now has to be paid by every non-HP number vehicle entering Manali. Shimla too has levied a green fee. Queues extend at these terminals aggravating the bottlenecks.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has done well by imposing restrictions to protect the fragile ecology of the area. There are restrictions on daily flow of vehicles to Rohtang Pass, 52 km from Manali. The pinch of traffic irritants on roads may have tourists exaggerating the chaos, but many told DH that it takes not less than 4 hours to reach Rohtang Pass on a weekend, perhaps even more.

“The extent of chaos on roads in Manali is unmanageable. Imagine what it would have been in the absence of the restrictions imposed by the NGT,” Dr Kapish Gupta, senior orthopaedic surgeon in Chandigarh, said talking to DH. Dr Gupta was on a vacation with his family to Manali.

The NGT last month allowed 100 more tourist vehicles to pass through the eco-sensitive area towards Rohtang Pass. Earlier, the NGT had permitted 800 petrol and 400 diesel vehicles to go beyond Manali on Rohtang Pass road. But now the panel has permitted 100 more cars out of which 60 per cent would be petrol cars and 40 per cent diesel cars to travel to the Pass. Tuesday is vehicle free day and no vehicle is allowed to take the road to Rohtang Pass.

The applicants under this category will only be the tourists driving their own vehicles from HP and other parts of the country. “At least 75% of such applications would be granted permit under outside tourist category. The remaining would be tourists from other districts of HP,” NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said. Violations of directions of the NGT would attract a fine of Rs 5,000 that would be treated as environmental compensation. The decline in tourist flow to Kashmir has added to the rush at tourist destinations in HP. It's taking a toll. The astoundingly rising vehicular traffic has alarmingly deteriorated the air quality in these tourist towns.

Shimla in the last one month has witnessed heavy tourist rush. Around 4,000 vehicles enter Shimla on weekends. The level of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) has increased by 40% in last fortnight in Shimla which has caused concern. The level at one of the busiest terminals in Shimla was recorded at 97.74 microgram per metric cube, which is almost two times the permissible limit.  The air-quality level has also gone for a toss in Manali which was recorded at over 60 microgram per metric cube recently on a weekend.

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