Every travel brochure, book, guide, and website mentions Chadwick Falls as one of the famous tourist spots of Shimla. Still most tourists give it a miss and those who do visit, are left disappointed. Disappointed tourists leave bad reviews and the reputation of the place goes down. This is why over the years there has been a sharp decline in footfall at Chadwick Falls.
Chadwick Falls are located at the edge of Hyun village about 7 km from Shimla town. As you start walking on the forest trail from Hyun, the sound of the waterfall drowns out all other sounds that you are used to hearing in the city. The sound gets louder as you move ahead and suddenly the waterfall emerges from behind a curtain of dense green trees.
Hyun village is part of the “Har Gaanv Ki Kahaani” initiative of Himachal Tourism and is meant to be a tourist attraction as a heritage village. There is even an art gallery in the village along with a café and residency.
All this should make Chadwick Falls and Hyun Village attractive to tourists, especially foreigners who enjoy rural and natural sights. And yet, Chadwick Falls have been neglected into an appalling condition.
The Problems with Chadwick Falls
One big eye sore is the rain shelter near the waterfall which has been turned into a urinal/bar. Inartistic graffiti, crude remarks and lonely phone numbers adorn the once white walls of the shelter. Broken beer bottles, ash from fire, empty packets of chips, cans, plastic bottles, and cigarette butts lie inside, outside, and even on the roof of the shelter. And the whole place smells like a urinal.
This is the first spectacle you get as you wind your way down to the waterfall. But it doesn’t get any better after that either.
The whole area around the waterfall looks like a garbage dump. Once again you find plastic bottles, packets of chips, glass bottles, polythene bags, worn out footwear, CDs, medical waste, and other unsightly things strewn around everywhere. The water is murky and there is no place to sit. Even if the place was clean you couldn’t possibly think of setting up a picnic as the whole place is covered in stones.
A signboard innocently urges you to keep Chadwick Falls clean and green while a small dustbin overflows guiltily.
The Real Problem
All the garbage collected at Chadwick Falls wasn’t strewn by irresponsible tourists. Following the flow of the water shows more plastic lodged against the rocks as the stream flows down. Put 2 and 2 together, apply a little deductive logic and the truth reveals itself.
Most of this garbage has flown along with the water and found its resting place at Chadwick Falls. The stream that falls from the top of the 100 meter waterfall is too fast for plastic to get lodged. But once at the bottom, the water slows down in the pool. In monsoons the pool expands and covers most of the rocky bed. When the water recedes the plastic is left behind.
You can find similar gathering of plastic in streams that lead to the Ashvini Khud as well. In fact this is the condition of most of the water sources not just in India but in the world. There’s even a garbage island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!
Ideas for Solutions
But coming back to Chadwick Falls it is clear that plastic garbage is the major problem. A single dustbin, no matter how big, is not a magical solution as it has to be emptied regularly. And since at least half the garbage is coming from the city, the only permanent solution is regular cleaning. Apparently the problem is a lack of communication between the forest department and the tourism department as to who is responsible for the upkeep of this forest tourist spot.
In 2011, Ashadeep, a local NGO organized a cleaning drive that included the school students of Boileauganj and Summer Hill. Maybe such drives can be done once or twice a year. But either the tourist department or the forest department also needs to step up and accept responsibility for keeping Chadwick Falls clean.
The rain shelter needs to be cleaned and painted. Somehow it has to be made unattractive to college students wanting to party out in nature. How that could be achieved is beyond me but maybe you readers can suggest some ideas.
A few benches would provide a place for the tourists to sit and enjoy the waterfall. When I visited last year, the 500 meter track that leads to Chadwick Falls was broken in one part due to landslide. Such and any other obstacles should be removed and proper sign boards should be placed all the way up to the IIAS building which itself attracts many tourists.
Despite all the plastic, the natural serenity of Chadwick Falls still touches you. Just imagine how nice the place would be if it wasn’t utterly neglected.
I have tried to be optimistic in this article but the deeper problem of plastic waste and our inability to manage it seems to be leading us to a hopeless future. But instead of focusing on the future let’s try and do whatever we can in the present to make
Chadwick Falls live up to its potential of being the prime tourist attraction in Shimla.