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Sunday Special » Kaleidoscope

Posted at: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM; last updated: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM (IST)

Mussoorie lets everyone down

Ajay Ramola in Mussoorie
Mussoorie lets everyone down
Houses and trees are draped in white following fresh snowfall in Uttarkashi on Saturday. PTI
Ritesh, 12, is disappointed. Accompanied by his parents, he hoped to see snowfall in Mussoorie in extended New Year celebrations. “This year too, no snow!” exclaimed Rajat Agarwal president of Mussoorie Traders Association. His despair is understandable as receding snow spells in the town have affected the tourist inflow and related trade. All this is no good news even the drinking water front.

The effect of climate variability can be seen from early rhododendron (locally called Burans) bloom in forests near Mussoorie. The rhododendron flowering generally occurs in February and March. “With the temperature rising and humidity levels going down due to snowfall deficiency this year, it has triggered the bloom as early as in December,” says Dr Dheeraj Pandey, deputy director Kaulagarh Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand.

Lesser snowfall would slow down the recharging of water resources. This would lead to less moisture and green cover in the forest, thus inviting forest fires at the slightest provocation, says Dr Pandey. The decrease in snow spells might affect the migratory patterns of wild animals who take to low-lying areas for their prey during heavy snow in the hills. There is no conclusive study done on this aspect, but the hibernation cycle of many animals such as wild bear could be affected by rise in temperatures and lesser snow in the winter says Dr Pandey. 

The women folk involved in woollen manufacturing are also worried. “This winter has been warmer resulting in low demand for woollen garments this year,” says Bimla, who makes mufflers for tourists in Mussoorie. “The tourists used to buy woollens in Mussoorie, but this year the town has seen only a few spell of hail and rain and nothing else,” she says.

Mussoorie is known to have received 10-15 ft snow back in the 1840s says local chronicler Gopal Bhardwaj. He has a set of old and rare pictures of the city. 

Around 10-ft snow was witnessed in 1945 bringing in hardship for locals, says Bhardwaj. Later the snow-spells came down rapidly. In 1957, around three-ft snow was witnessed, in 1961, it was just three feet, and thereafter only 10 inches. 

Environmentalists want a thorough study on the effects of climate variability and on the livelihood of the people living in and around Mussoorie. A state action plan for climate change has been developed, but its recommendations are yet to be implemented. 

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