Himachal At The Crossroads

Crossroads

Some years ago Himachal Tourism had a catchy slogan – ‘A state for all seasons and all reasons.’ Over time, it appears that this also became the developmental paradigm for the state’s planners.

Investments of all kinds were welcome – cement plants, hydel projects, arc furnaces, steel plants, pharma companies, housing developments, SEZs, private airports. These enterprises were superimposed on the state’s existing core economic activities of horticulture and tourism ( agriculture has mainly been of the sustenance variety).

Investments were necessary to provide employment to the multitude of job seekers which the state’s successful education system churned out every year. The process was started in the late seventies and early eighties when a number of industrial areas were laid out along the state’s borders, but actually picked up pace in the mid- nineties on the back of assured and cheap power and stable law and order, at a time when the rest of the country was grappling with both these problems.

A hydel project in Chamba

About this time Himachal also discovered its massive hydel potential. The accelerator, however, was really jammed through the floor post 2000 with the introduction of a special industrial package for the state by the Centre . This package itself has drawn in investments of more than Rs. 17000 crore in the last five years alone.

Busy counting the investment dollars and attending PHD Chamber and CII confabulations, the state’s policy makers completely lost sight of their main asset and sustainable resource- the environment, bestowed on the state by a million years of nature’s labours.

Somewhere along the way, this beautiful environment was mortgaged to the demands and pressures of commerce and the GDP, and the indiscriminate welcome accorded to any and all kinds of industry have now taken their toll. The effects have been pretty well documented by reputed NGOs, various donor agencies, various Committees appointed by the High Court acting on PILs, some of the projects themselves as well as government’s own departments.

The rivers and streams carry increasing loads of pollutants and silt, entire rivers ( such as the Ravi in Chamba and the Sutlej) have either disappeared or are fast disappearing into underground Head Race Tunnels of hydel projects.

Fish like the trout and mahseer have all but vanished from all but the remotest streams, more than 100 square kilometers of prime forests have been diverted for various projects, the state’s dense forests have been consistently declining year on year as per reports of the Forest Survey of India., flash floods and landslides have become endemic in the project areas, many rare species of wild life like the western tragopan pheasant and the musk deer have become highly endangered. Industry, especially hydel projects and cement plants are pushing deeper and deeper into the innards of this beautiful state like some unstoppable cancer, draining it of its very essence.

The effects of all this on the traditional sectors of the state’s economy- tourism and horticulture- are now beginning to ring alarm bells. Try as it might the state cannot rise above its image as a low budget tourism destination- primarily because its natural locales are being despoiled, its policies have concentrated on attracting the hard manufacturing sector rather than the softer hospitality services, and because it mistakenly wants the quick gains ( jobs, tax revenues) today which manufacturing can deliver quickly , rather than wait the few years which any quality investment in tourism demands.

The net result is that, although tourist arrivals in Himachal show a constant increase, tourist spending is low, foreign tourists are less than three percent of the total ( which would be even lower if one were to discount the Dalai Lama factor).

Manali town

It is nothing less than tragic that for a state which has the most stupendous Himalayan attractions, its tourism has not been able to rise above the chhola bhatura variety. Tourism’s contribution to the state’s GDP is only 8%- a pathetic figure for a state which proclaims itself as the favourite destination in the country, for which it has even won some dubious awards!

Tourism remains limited to the urbanized areas of Shimla, Manali and Dharamshala where it is wreaking havoc in the absence of any upgraded infrastructure or serious urban planning. These towns have become a smorgasbord of traffic snarls, choked drains, pot-holed roads, water scarcity, uncleared garbage and plastic strewn slopes.

Their green cover is rapidly disappearing under concrete and muck. A vicious cycle is being played out here: to begin with, Himachal has always been a low budget tourism destination, attracting 1.20 crore low-paying tourists in 2010. The average tourist stays less than two days, and the per capita spend is barely Rupees 2000/.

Transmision lines in Kinnaur

However, the strain he imposes on the infrastructure( traffic, water, sewerage, garbage) is in no way less than what a tourist spending Rupees 20000.00 would impose. Himachal is just not getting the bang for its buck. Conversely, the deterioration of its destinations leads to the quality conscious( and high-end) tourist staying away, vacating space for even larger numbers of low budget visitors, who further exacerbate and over-load the civic infrastructure of these towns, resulting in further deterioration and even more quality tourists staying away.

( It is not surprising that, in a survey of major Indian cities carried by the April 16, 2009 issue of DOWN TO EARTH, Shimla has been ranked as the worst city in India among 30 in the ‘walkability index’ i.e. conduciveness to walking).

Content with the hill stations the British gave us on a platter, successive state governments have made no planned efforts to expand the base of tourism to the interiors- the verdant river valleys, the pristine forests, the stupendous mountains. Whatever extension has taken place has been sporadic, unplanned, and usually initiated by the private sector with no contribution by the government.

And even the private sector cannot push beyond a point in the absence of connectivity (good roads, heli- services, ropeways), planned development of activity hubs and an enabling policy environment- all of which has to be done by the government.

Governments of all hues have entered into unnecessary confrontation with major private sector players and stalled execution of premium projects which had the potential to leap-frog the state into the top rung of holiday destinations- if it was the Congress which ensured that the Oberois would never look at Himachal again (because of the Wildflower Hall imbroglio), it is the BJP which has torpedoed the largest FDI tourism project in the country- the Ski-village project in the Manali valley, simply because it was sanctioned by the predecessor Congress government!

These negative signals to industry can only perpetuate the trend which shows that not a single major hospitality chain has set up shop in this state in the last 30 years! There are some indications that the state government is beginning to realize its past myopia and wants to focus on its nature- based assets to drive tourism but, unfortunately, by the time full realization dawns it may be too late.

Scenic Himachal under threat

This is because, in the last 20 years, the devastation of its forests, environment and wild-life for the sake of cement plants and hydel projects have denuded large swathes of the state of its natural beauty and resilience, removing the basis itself for any nature tourism.

It is ironic- and tragic, because the government appears to have missed it- that this destruction of nature has taken place precisely in the most beautiful valleys which have the maximum tourism potential: Beas (Manali, Kullu), Parbati (Manikaran, Kasol), Tirthan (Banjar, Shoja), Rav (Chamba, Bharmour), Baspa (Sangla, Chitkul), Uhl and Lambadug (Barot, Chota Bangal), to name just a few. More than 700,000 trees that took 100 hundred years to mature have been felled since 1980 to provide power to malls in Gurgaon.

The degradation that has taken place is on a colossal scale: Quoting from a 2007 report on land degradation by the National Remote Sensing Authority, Hyderabad (also called the Wasteland Atlas of India), the April 16th 2009 issue of DOWN TO EARTH states that Himachal is one of the three states in India that “have the highest percentages of (soil) degradation.”

And, most frightening of all, this is the state of affairs when the state has exploited barely 50% of its hydel potential! The damaging effects of the planners’ short-sightedness is now beginning to be felt: crumbling roads, vanishing green cover, dust and smoke pollution, disappearing wild-life, rising temperatures, mindless urbanization.

This cannot but drive away the discerning tourist in the long run. Himachal should not get complacent with the absolute number of tourist arrivals, which are deceptively impressive. It should look at their per capita spending, their length of stay, their repeat visits- all of which are very low.

It should remember that, in large measure, it is getting Kashmir’s tourist income by default, and that the day serious peace returns to Kashmir a huge chunk of its present clientle will vanish overnight. Even today, a peaceful interlude in Kashmir sees a fall in tourist arrivals in Himachal, especially Manali. And it should also realize that it is gradually being over-taken by Uttarakhand which appears to be better focused on nature and adventure tourism.

True, the state’s revenues have gone up by a couple of thousand crores, but this is a very short term gain because it comes at the cost of its environmental, forest and tourism potential.

These three sectors can , if properly managed, contribute much more to the state’s GDP by way of silvicultural felling, payment for environmental services, high-end tourism. Tourism, with all its upstream and downstream linkages, can provide many times the employment which heavy industry can, and employment is the one thing which the youth of the state desperately need, with more than 10% of its population registered with the Employment Exchanges.

Himachal is at the cross-roads today- it can either take the short road to polluting industrialization and mindless urbanization for quick gains, or it can take the longer route to a sustainable, environment-friendly development based on its stupendous natural and forest resources. But it cannot linger long at the cross-roads-with each passing day it loses a few more thousand trees, a few more meters of some precious river, perhaps a species of flora or fauna we are not even aware of. It must decide quickly, and decide wisely.

Photos by: Amit Kanwar

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/

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47 Comments

  1. says: Devinder K.Sharma

    Very nice write up. One wishes that politics had as longer a view into future as environmental concerns demand. Alas, that has not been, can not be and will continue to be in its traditional state of inertia because of severely conflicting interests. As long as the two perspectives do not match, the story of environmental degradation will progress and the rate of degradation will start exhibiting the scars and irreversible losses.

  2. Many cheers for the article “Himachal at the Crossroads”.
    Mountains are a peculiar sense of inspiration which comes from their formidable features of unstinting repository of water, energy and environment. Till the advent of modern era of technology and consumerism, they have been instilling a sense of awe and challenges in a visitor. Good healthy mountain areas, besides being prosperous themselves, also bring prosperity downstream. Similarly degraded mountain areas bring poverty and drudgery downstream. Therefore, it is important to maintain ecological integrity and economic and social viability of mountain areas, both for the sake of
    mountain inhabitants and for those living in lowland areas.

    The concerns raised in the article are very timely and topical for the mountain state of Himachal Pradesh. Indeed, a healthy environment is very closely related to politics as noted by Devinder K. Sharma.

  3. says: Vishal Sadyal

    Sir Problem with this country is that we always go to Babus or Politicians for answers and LOOK what have they done to our Beautiful state. Goras made beautiful cities and infrastructure but we kept on overusing it.
    You can easily make out that what Avay ji is trying to say but our Politicians and Babus living in their ivory towers hardly know about the ground realities.
    But I do blame ourselves for this MENACE as we vote for cast and religion and majority in India accept some form of gifts from candidates. Honest Leaders are always kept aside…
    So lets start cleaning this state and country by doing own Homework……instead of asking from state we should be ready to cooperate as much as possible with Panchayat and Government on Development issues and try not to stop it just because you will loose few sq feet land. When you walk out of your House make it a point you will not do anything illegal and if you see anybody doing same you will make sure that he is made aware about that let it be government Employee.
    We need people like Anna Hazare and Ram Dev doing rounds of our State……We are the one who can change this DevBhoomi

  4. says: Ankit Sood

    Excellent write up coming from a person of vast experience and a true lover of Himachal’s environmental heritage. In the geometry of the relationship of time with environment we in Himachal are on crossroads .

    Being a tourism consultant its amazing to see new states like Sikkim and Utterkhand far more vigilant in protecting their environment and making sure that they have high value low impact tourism. It is amazing to see the huge amount of negative publicity being generated against good projects in tourism when perhaps they are the ones with any kind of social and environmental concern, to come to our state. So many hydro projects destroy huge areas with no concern and they also bring very little employment or benefit to the local communities. So many small hotels come up, without any research or care about thier environmental impacts and they never file a proper EIA.

    Yet, when anybody proposes an investment to be guided by pathbreaking environmental care and huge employment/training support for the local communities, they get attacked by unbelievable propaganda .

    If people insist on being closed to truth and open only to politically motivated propaganda, they will continue to be manipulated and thier beautiful state will be sold out from under them, piece by piece to the highest bidders. What we require is an aware politician and a proactive Bureaucrat who would make sure that this beautiful. Its also high time for the Himachali to wake up against this rampant unplanned growth.

    I suppose the old saying is true” You get the government and fate that you deserve.”

  5. An article which was long awaited! Coming from a seasonal and proven bureaucrat adds the real value to the words. I have been telling this to many but then who cares for and about our state:

    I am pasting few lines from the article for other readers so that they can quickly understand the major threat we have in HP:


    Busy counting the investment dollars and attending PHD Chamber and CII confabulations, the state’s policy makers completely lost sight of their main asset and sustainable resource- the Environment, bestowed on the state by a million years of nature’s labours.


    Tourism’s contribution to the state’s GDP is only 8%- a pathetic figure for a state which proclaims itself as the favourite destination in the country, for which it has even won some dubious awards!

    It is not surprising that, in a survey of major Indian cities carried by the April 16, 2009 issue of DOWN TO EARTH, Shimla has been ranked as the worst city in India among 30 in the “walkability index” i.e. conduciveness to walking.

    it is the BJP which has torpedoed the largest FDI tourism project in the country- the Ski-village project in the Manali valley, simply because it was sanctioned by the predecessor Congress government!


    the April 16th 2009 issue of DOWN TO EARTH states that Himachal is one of the three states in India that “have the highest percentages of ( soil) degradation.

    1. says: Rajeev

      This is an intresting article from a seasoned bureaucrat…..but wonder how he became Additional Chief Secretary! Additional Chief Secretary is a BIG post…… Kiran Bedi had to contend with junior postings all her career and is still Dushman no.1 of Congress……

  6. says: Kamal Thakur

    Thanks a ton Avay Shukla.

    You have dissected the story of state’s economy quite well.

    Low Importance to Tourism: (I can expect only a sane and educated minister/CM to understand how important it is to make Tourism as the number one priority for the state) HP is losing the tourism-charm. It’s time we start pushing our leaders to focus on this side of the coin and stop blabbering about all the jobs and money earned through industrialization.

    Industrialization to some degree is fine.. BUT .. they didn’t do it well either! Even industrialization was not carried out properly I would say. Look at Baddi.. I have not seen such large scale unplanned construction anywhere else..

    Town-planning? That’s completely absent! Shimla, Mandi, Sunder Nagar, Dharmshala, Manali… there is not one town in the state where you can get to see some town-planning in action!

    The solution, it seems, is to replace those bunch of useless ministers and MLAs and take genuine interest in creating (green) employment/business in the state.

  7. says: Dharam Sharma

    I am happy to find bureaucrat’s worry about H.P.’s environment and welfare at least after retirement. Wish it could be done when one is in the hot seat! Most of what we see today is the result of yestraday’s policies and their implementation.

    1. Dharam ji,

      But then when they are on job they are not allowed to do the work. HP has and had many good officials and politicians know how to make their life hell! Those who raise voices are either transferred to nondescript positions or are not at all given required promotions via which they can effectively implement policies.

      I can assure you I know few personally who after all the bickering still implemented wonderful plans and paid heavy price. Only issue is we as public and also media just never highlight their achievements.

      1. says: Dharam Sharma

        Avnish ji,
        The irony is, that either one is for the ‘system’ or against it. My heroes amongst bureaucrats are people like Kiran Bedi who refused to accept the system; and people like Ashwani Kumar who, during early fifties, caught Dr. Parmar’s car carrying a cache of drugs! Wish other bureaucrats had similar profiles in courage! India would be a different nation then.

  8. says: Veroni

    To the anonymous author :

    THANK YOU !!

    Everybody that cares about HImachal needs to read this article and share it!

    Truly, Himachal is in a perilous situation. I would say, Himachal is standing at the edge of a cliff, and has the choice of turning around, or leaping down and self destructing.

    Save Nature, Save Himachal.

  9. says: Ankit Sood

    Dharamji,

    Mr. Avay Shukla did all he could to support the cause of the environment even when he was at power. Not withstanding the pressures from either of the two ruling parties he always put the states environment first. This can be seen from one man committees like Avay Shukla report on hydels and several other instances when he made sure that a sustainable practice to balance HImachal’s growth and unique ecosystems remain intact.

    Not only has Mr. Shukla trekked extensively in the remotest valleys of Himachal seeing things first hand but also guided several serving officers and people like myself to remain committed to protecting the pristine natural beauty of our state.

    1. says: Dharam Sharma

      Ankit ji,
      I have great regards for Avay ji and his family. The article is well written and shows his grasp on the subject. But, in a way, it also reflects his helplessness in not being able to accomplish he wanted to in his long career. And, like other 99% of the people in the government, he found himself flowing with the system, often against his wishes.

  10. says: sudar

    The author has analyzed the situation very well. However, I feel that our decision makers really lack the guts to take the proper long term decisions. Many of them are only looking for short term gains. We are all loosing because of short sightedness of our friends in power and power struggle between various political parties. Unless we have a visionary leader sitting at the top and taking good decisions, it would become increasingly difficult to correct the way things are moving. Ski project is one such example. Today most of the tourists prefer to hire a vehicle from Chandigarh/ Delhi and then go to Himachal and stay there for a day or two. These tourists pack all the food/ drinks and other accessories from home and they hardly spend anything Himachal. This has led to Himachal becoming a low cost tourist destination and average spending dwindling every year despite an inflation of ~ 10%.

  11. says: VIVEK MOHAN.

    With all the due respect,Sir…as we all are equally passionate .
    The moment MOST b’crats(or shall we say brats) and pols reluctantly give up the ‘seat of power’ they turn into real ‘public servants’ ! Writing memoirs,art’s,posting comments,shouting on T.V. panels on good governance…blah,blah,blah…On the ‘hot seat’ MOSTLY the attitude is I Am Supreme (IAS) and if cornered by the media and the pub opinion which in Himachal is nothing much to speak about owing to sycophancy barring few…the same lot becomes I Am Safe ! (a sr. technocrat told me this definition). How we all wish and hope that the ‘red tape’ is cut in the corridors rather than the events they patronise as Chief Guests!
    I remember how my late Pa had to run to and fro to the H.P.Sectt. leaving waiting patients for all his promotions from Lecturer to the HOD creating now full fledged Psychiatry Deptt. in Snowdon, now IGMC.On a lighter side we as college goers reluctantly veered towards the St.Bede’s girls college chawk on the way for the unknown fear of being spotted !
    Had it not been the unfortunate mental illness of Pt.Sukh Ram’s late younger bro my dad would’ve been languishing in remote Kunihar near airport now with no facilities and not gone for PG in Ranchi.Had it not been the same fate befelling the 1st wife of Raja VBS no sanitorium would’ve come up near Ghodachawki/Dargah which dad had actually planned for Bilaspur being central and av. temp.’s round the year.
    Some were interested only in the fact that could off sanction 6(six) months med leave (u read it right!) only to be able to be seen roaming around aimlessly on the Mall.
    Everyone knows how the ship could’ve been saved after it has sunk! TITANIC. It;s ticking anti – clockwise !
    Spare us the statistics.Maths was never a fav sub for most of us except scoring cent percent marks – another no. game!
    We need visionary leaders who look beyond Parwanoo.

  12. says: lkkapoor

    Thanks Sir, for such a well timed article. We don’t know, where this mine of Himachal is moving ahead. Cement plants have enchroached my roads to drive peacefully. NH-21,particularly be officially declared TRUCKWALLA road. Hydel Projects are replacing road side Dhaba in the State. It’s my earnest appeal to Govt. to please rethink on the policy envisiged for this beautiful State.

  13. says: ivy

    Its really very sad to see tourism go down the drain. The numerous houses springing out of nowhere shows absolutely no planning. Don’t know what the IAS officers are doing? Why are they acting so stupid, and not guiding the ministers well enough?

  14. says: Anupam Shukla

    who cares? The power of votes have made development a politicized issue.People at the helm of the affairs focus on 5 years term for themselves rather than long term gains for the state.It’s same all over the country.I have seen beauty of the state some15 years.now I am told fans are on in shimla ltself-a big changre.Wake up Neta log to save this beautiful natures gift .

  15. says: Subhash Pathak

    An analytical and well written article. Mr Shukla has systematically analysed as to what ails the macro planning in the development process of Himachal Pradesh.The degradation of forest cover especially cutting of 70,000 ,over hundred year old trees for hydel projects needs serious public debate.

    In order to ensure that the state has substantial income ,high end tourism needs to be encouraged.There are huge opportuntes for adventure tourism.Our state should take cue from Finland where the state economy is practically on Ski tourism.The state should encourage projects like Himalayan Ski Village and not allow these to become a pawn in the game of politics.Conceptually such like projects are bound to attract a large number of high end foreign and domestic tourists. Being manpower oriented the projects will generate a huge employment opportunities for the Himachali youth,both men and women . Finland was economically a poor state , see what tourism has done to it . Today it is one of the most properous states of Europe.

  16. says: John Sims

    As the originator and Managing Director of the erstwhile Himalayan Ski Village, I have watched with great sadness the results of the politics of negativity destroy what was without doubt a project that would have added much more than it would have taken from your beautiful state. At every step, we forfeited profits, when environmental interests were threatened and sought to be inclusive of all local culture and communities.
    Our Environmental Impact Assesment took more than one year to complete, engaging over 21 environmental scientists from both The Indian Institute of Forests and TERI to honestly assess our impacts. The Finnish government sent their own team of environmental scientists (all PhDs) to study our impacts (including private interviews of 130 local villagers) and offered to be involved in environmental management of the project and offered an investment of $4 million to assist the development, being so impressed with the serious intentions to showcase how a rigid dedication to environmental responsibility can also produce phenominal prosperity for the local communities, as it has famously done in Finnland.
    I must also mention that Avay Shukla, as Secretary Tourism at the time took a time consuming and aggressive interest to insure that the Ski Village fulfilled it’s promise and responsibility to preserve the environment and benefit the local communities. He never waivered in his vigilance and passion to set a new standard of responsible development. I personally spent some days trekking around the mountainsides with Avay Shukla and a few senior environmental scientists to review, debate and adjust all of the impacts and plans. He was a stellar example of the ideal of the IAS and a courageous gentleman. Unfortunately, the election process required a sacrifical lamb and we seemed to be the most deserving I suppose. They do say; “No good deed goes unpunished”.
    I hope we will see another project like the ski village someday, that can bring massive employment, while retaining the local cultural integrity and environmental balance. I am not sure I will live so long to see it, but in parting your beautiful state let me convey my deepest regards and affection for all of the nobel souls like Avay Shukla who have tried to bring genuine benefits to the people. Perhaps we have failed in the short term, but we have indicated the potential for future leaders to consider.
    John Sims
    Managing Director, HSV.

    1. says: Dharam Sharma

      I fully agree with John’s assessment. Wherever a relatively bigger chunk of money is involved, our system discovers ‘sacrificial lambs’ regardless of good intentions of the promoters of a project. In case of Ski Village, Fords wanted to do it not for money.They have enough of it;but for the emotional ties they have with India and for the genuine concern for doing something fruitful in this country. It would definitely have given a new direction and definition to the way we perceive ‘tourism’ in Himachal.The political leaders who helped shelve it may be beating victory drums now without realizing how much loss they have inflicted on the state’s future merely to satisfy their ego and self-interests.

    2. says: Avay Shukla

      Hi John, good to hear from you. The pain you feel is evident and I for one share it fully.But don’t lose heart-I’m sure the Ski-village will become a reality one day and we’ll camp again at Squirrel Thatch, God willing! Let me know if u are likely to be in Delhi in the second week of August-I’m coming down then and it would be nice to catch up. Chins up and regards. Avay.

  17. says: Virendra patyal

    It,s true that Himachal is dying a slow death at the hands of corrupt and lousy departmental officials and politicians. No on cares about the scenic beauty and the natures gift to himachal. we are unable to develop tourism, in the state and talk of industrialization , infrastructural development. I think the more we disturb nature it will play havoc with the people. so, preserve the sanctity of himachal and its natural beauty. We have unmatched beauty in the valleys of bara bhangal, chota bhangal, Karsog, with beautiful majestic passes which are still to be discovered by the state government.
    Virendra
    virendra

  18. says: bhupinder

    i personally feel, the permanent livilihood of people should be saved from onslought of medernity which is only transient and everlasting , if we destroy our greenary, river,environment , its consequences will be far away from our dreams, one tree take 200 years to mature and second to destroy, water, fresh air fertile soil are solid bases of life,these should be maintained at any cost,few people should not allowed to exploit just for commision or big windfall of richness for fews,himachal been place of beauty,serenity,abudance of love, peace,amity should be maintained at any rate,cultural,heritage tourism should be promoted to bring some income to people

  19. says: Vijay Chauhan

    Nice article. Congratulations for bringing it up!

    Govt took the easiest route to generate a couple of thousand crores for exchequer and few hundred for their own pocket. I don’t think the industry in Himachal has really benefited the unemployed youth. Most of the industries are located in the borders and just provide the labor jobs. Himachali youth is not getting the job near to his/her home. They still have to leave their home for these jobs.

    So, then what is the difference of doing a job in Chandigarh or Delhi and Baddi/Nalagarh etc. Cities like Delhi and Chandigarh provides better living conditions and people still prefer to go there for job hunt. Look at the Baddi and Nalagarh, conditions are pathetic.

    I personally believe that the govt should have been tried for the service sector and not for the manufacturing. They should have gone for the IT zones in each district headquarter. We have the good talent and environment for service industry. We just need infrastructure and political will.

    Thanks,
    Vijay

  20. says: lkkapoor

    Its wonderful to read so many comments. Congratulation everybody for caring this beautiful part of mother Nature, which is a urgent requirement of the time.

  21. says: Dr Pawan kumar Banta

    The major source of degradation has been the loss of vegetational cover, wrong plant introduction policies, migration of working hands to far off places, thoughtless increase in cultivation area to wastelands, sloppy area and marginal lands, sedimentation of rivers, scarcity of potable water and fuel, poor quality of domestic animals, pseudo-urbanization, roads, building, mining, horticulture on agricultural lands, no real survey of local land quantum, increased evapotranspiraton, increase in weeds in secondary successional stages, thoughtless change of old cropping pattern, tourism, trekking, socio-cultural and economic problems with increased number of tourists, etc.

  22. says: suresh Chauhan

    Frustration poured out by a retired bureaucrat who himself may have also been responsible in ruining the ecology of Himachal Pradesh. A person who was one step away from becoming the Chief Secretary of the state government and having served rather dictated this government for more than two decades now suddenly makes his heart beat for the environment.
    To hide this illegal activity your then forest department went to Himachal Pradesh High Court to get judicial approval to this illegal activity.Though High Court is unnecessarily pending this matter but the people of this state are expecting justice to be delivered soon in this illegal doling out of forests to the private companies at peanut price.
    Is it the model of tourism you want set up in Himachal Pradesh? Privatization of the green wealth of the state in the name of tourism. In Cragnano near Mashobara one private company having political blessing during you as Secretary was running tent tourism for two years that too without permission of forest department.Why wasn’t action taken against them in the beginning ? And only after complaint there unauthorized occupation of the forest land was removed.
    Haven’t you built your house in Mashobara from the illegal TD timber (Tree Distribution Rights) by felling five trees for which you had no rights.Do you not owe responsibility for failing to green Himachal? Except for organizing seminars I remember nothing concrete was done by forest department during your days.

    The comment has been moderated

  23. says: Anil

    Suresh you seem to be just writing for the sake of saying something without actually understanding anything. It’s people like you who pull the few good men that serve us down that never lets the system improve or grow. Its people like you that complain about ever small thing (often fabricating unknown facts at will and convenience) yet are never willing to extend a hand and make a small difference on your own. Its people like you that is wrong with India now. Get up and try and do something instead of complaining about everything.

    Regards,
    Anil

    The comment has been moderated

  24. says: Subhash Pathak

    For one tree to grow one hundred years we may have to plant at least ten.I hope the govt. and the forest dept is doing something for the seven lac trees which were over hundred years old cut for the Hydel Projects.As a Himachali I have right to know.

  25. says: Avay Shukla

    There is little need to respond to Mr. Suresh Chauhan’s personal diatribe against me. However, I would like to clear his misconceptions about “doling out the forests to private companies for peanuts”.He is obviously referring to the Eco-tourism intiatives taken by the Forest Deptt, but he has got his facts absolutely wrong.It is now accepted internationally that Eco-tourism is one of the best means of conserving forests-it creates awareness about nature and the various environmental services it provides to human-kind,it provides economic benefits to local communities, it bridges the growing chasm between the Forest Deptts. and local villagers.HP was the first state in the country to come out with an Eco-tourism policy in 2000, and all actions taken have been consistent with this policy. The private sector was associated in this venture as the govt. has neither the funds nor the expertise to run such commercial operations successfully. Selection of parties was done by floating national tenders and the govt, has obtained substantial revenues from the process. Strict conditions have been imposed on the parties to ensure the operations are nature-friendly and no damage is caused to the forests.Mr. Chauhan can obtain full details from the Forest Deptt. thru an RTI application if he still has doubts. We need to realise that forests cannot be preserved by locking them away from local communities who have been dependent on them for generations:the latter will not cooperate in their conservation unless they can derive some economic benefits from them-and Eco-tourism works precisely because it meets this need.By calling this “doling out forests to private companies”is to betray one’s ignorance of emeging forest management practices.The initiative has been a huge success in HP-I can only suggest to Mr. Chauhan that he personally visit the ET units at Kaithlighat, Subathu, Barog, Solan By-pass and Narkanda to see how well this idea is playing out. In fact,this is the true path that Tourism has to follow in HP as the present Shimla/ Manali centric model is unsustainable and is degrading our environment and urban areas to the point of no return. Sometimes the govt. does the right thing, Mr. Chauhan, and appreciation of this is as important as criticizing it for the wrong things!

  26. very well written article mr shukla has hit it at the core, where it matters the most, its a must read for all who care about this himalayan wonder called “Himachal”, ….and moreover all shud act

  27. says: Sanjay Kaushal

    Tourism’s contribution to the state’s GDP is only 8%- a pathetic figure for a state which proclaims itself as the favourite destination in the country, for which it has even won some dubious awards!
    Its unbelievable for a state like Himachal .
    Author of article a seasoned bureaucrat has raised real threats .
    “Tourism is a basic and most desirable human activity deserving the praise and encouragement of all people and all Government”.This statement made at the XXI United Nations General Assembly in 1967, acknowledges
    the importance of the tourism industry.
    Himachal has unique natural offerings it is not able to cash
    upon them due to lack of various facilities.Tourism is only pollution and smoke free industry which can help in socio-economic development .In dt Chamba which has all four climatical zones tourism in eyes of tourism Deptt.is Chamba ,Dalhousie,Khajjiar and Bharmour.We have snow as real beauty of Chamba Distt. in winters and thats the off season here.Chamba distt. has so many trek routes connecting Lahoul Spiti, Kangra ,and Doda .All are untapped no mention in HPTDC brochures .

      Employment generation
      Community development
      Restoration of culture
      Environmental preservation
      Promotion of harmony and understanding

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