Sinking Himachal? Death, Devastation, Destruction Only Sight in Hill State After Monsoon Mayhem


Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, 400 km from Delhi, is usually a seven-hour drive but it is now taking 10 hours to reach the district, which continues to be the worst-hit by rain fury in the hill state. This makes it obvious that the situation in the state is bad, which witnessed its worst natural calamity as torrential rains last month led to severe flooding and landslides.

Not much has improved over the course of a month as Himachal, a popular tourist destination, grapples to get back on track. Once you enter the state via Punjab or any other state bordering it, you will witness roads filled with debris due to multiple landslides. At many of these sites, JCB machines and other road-clearing equipment are hard at work trying to open up routes.

August is a month of pleasant weather for the hill state, but this time, you may have to think twice about planning a mountain holiday. With buildings collapsed left, right and centre, it will be tough to decide on proper accommodation and, that too, with the reassurance that all will be fine in the coming days.

Sample this: The CNN-News18 team booked a hotel near Mandi, which is one of the highly affected districts. When the team reached the hotel, the roads appeared to be in good shape but the next morning, there were cracks on the road next to the hotel.

Roads and smooth traffic flow are considered a catalyst to development in any state and, especially, in mountainous regions where daily commute is only possible via roads. Bad weather has had an adverse impact on most of the highways, main roads and sub-lanes. For example, it is now taking six to seven hours to reach Mandi from Shimla due to route diversions. It usually takes four hours to cover this distance.

The tourism sector is the backbone of Himachal Pradesh and accounts for Rs 11,000 crore, contributing 7.5 percent to the state’s total GDP. A local business owner told News18 about his earnings this year as compared to a normal tourist year.

Ajay, who owns a small eatery at Shimla’s Mall Road, said this year their per day earning is around Rs 300 to Rs 400, which would normally be around Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000. Local residents are struggling to keep businesses afloat, spending their life’s savings to make ends meet.

Mithlesh Thakur, a resident of Shimla for the last 40 years, talked about the contributing factors responsible for the current state of Himachal Pradesh. He said the state is overburdened, which is the main reason behind a “sinking Shimla”.

According to Shimla’s civic body, the annual footfall on Mall Road was 13,36,685 in 2020 and, by 2030, it is expected to increase to 16,29,412.

If you go by the 2011 Census data, the population of Himachal Pradesh stands at 68,65,000 while Shimla’s population was 8,14,000 and growing at an annual rate of 1.22 percent and 1.19 percent. Environmentalists and urban planners said the number is much higher than the hill state’s capacity.

Politics and crisis

The ruling Congress and opposition BJP are engaged in a political slugfest. Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said the state government has incurred losses of around Rs 8,000 crore due to flash floods caused by heavy rains. He also mentioned that there is a need for immediate financial aid from the central government.

The chief minister said the state’s disaster compensation of over Rs 315 crore has been withheld for the last few years, to which his predecessor Jai Ram Thakur had a scathing reply. He said this is not the time to be politicking and help is being offered by the Centre both in terms of funds and manpower.


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