Shimla's historic Ridge develops cracks

Shimla's historic Ridge develops cracks

Around 40 metres of the Ridge in front of the famous Gaiety Theatre has caved in. The portion is exactly located atop the Tibetan market, a landmark of the town for the past 40 years.But these cracks do not threaten the entire street at the moment, officials said.
"The problem has a genesis in the haphazard constructions below the Ridge, mainly by the Tibetan market shopkeepers," Assistant Municipal Commissioner K.K. Sharma told IANS.

"The structures have blocked the natural flow of rainwater, resulting in accumulation of mud. Over the years, the strata has become fragile and started caving in at one point or the other," he said.

Work is on to repair the cracks, he said.Major cracks had appeared on the Ridge in 2008 as well when about 20 shops of the Tibetan market collapsed due to heavy rains.
Shimla has been receiving continuous rainfall for the past one week.

"The monsoon has been plentiful this year as compared to last year. From June 1 till date, the state has got 675 mm of rainfall against the normal average of 644 mm," said Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office here.

He said the hill state last year saw a 53 percent rainfall deficiency in the corresponding period last year.The Ridge has two heritage buildings, a neo-Tudor style building that houses the health wing of the municipality and the Anglican Christ church built in a neo-Gothic style that opened in 1857.

"The Ridge is showing signs of degradation and is sinking and shrinking. Annual commercial and cultural activities organised on the Ridge like the summer festival and tourism mart are destroying its sanctity and robbing the tourist spot of its pride," said Jiwan Singh Negi, who has settled here since 1965.

Subhash Chand, sub-divisional officer with the civic authorities, said a study conducted by the state geological department last year pointed out that the threat to the Ridge is mainly from haphazard constructions.

"There should be a total ban on haphazard construction activity below the Ridge as ongoing constructions, especially by the shopkeepers, are mainly responsible for disturbing its geological equilibrium," he said, quoting the study.

But Chand said the foundation of the Ridge was strong as it was solid rock two to five metres below the metalled road.

Sharma said the municipal corporation had planned to shift the Tibetan market after a Himachal Pradesh High Court order but the Supreme Court last year stayed the move to shift the 103 kiosk owners from the market.

According to Sharma, reinforced concrete retaining walls would be made below the affected area to stabilise the sliding strata after the monsoon.The Ridge was established by the British and served as the main bazaar with shops all around. Later, the British decided to clear the Ridge for public events and the shops were pulled down.
The Ridge rests on the city's water supply system that stores 4.6 million litres of water in a tank 45 metres in length and 32 metres wide. The tank has nine chambers and was probably built in 1883.

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