Lush Manali becoming jungle of concrete
MANALI. A distance of about 312 km from Chandigarh. The road has improved. The drive in the hills turned out to be interesting. The air was cool and refreshing. The hills still have patches of greenery. The places en route are neat. The schools not having closed, the traffic on the road was not much. And a sharp shower had added a little nip to the air. We reached by dusk.
Soon we settled in. There was music in the air. The singing birds. The whistling pines. The running water of the river. The streams producing their own sounds. All combined to make a symphony. Before long, the sun set behind the hills. The ensuing darkness hid all that might seem dirty in the daylight. And then, the full moon gave a golden glow to the snow on the mountains. It was a picture for a painter. A sight to behold. It was pleasing to the eye and soothing for the senses.
Next morning, we went
out. To have a look around the town. To see if it had changed since we
had seen it last. It has become considerably crowded during the past
20 years. Man is not heeding nature’s warning. And thanks to the
growing human population, the green forests are slowly yielding place
to a concrete jungle. The number of buildings has increased manifold.
The change is there for everyone to see. We have less of rain and snow
and more of forest fires. Immediate attention seems imperative. But it
is probably a cry in the wilderness. Nobody seems to be seeing the
writing on the wall.
Manali has more of mythology. According to a legend, Bhim had killed the demon Hadimb here. He had then married the demon’s sister Hadimba. In 1550 AD, the Hadimba temple was built. A large number of people visit it every day and pay obeisance to the powerful deity. It is also said that the great saint Beas had performed his pooja at the Beas Kund.
Pleased by the prayers of the saint, God had granted perennial hot water springs at the spot. In the midst of snow-covered peaks. For the gods to bathe. Now the place is known as the Vashishth Baths. Despite the lapse of centuries, the water flows uninterrupted. The springs are now seen in their new avatar. With modern taps and tiles.
The past lends credence to the modern belief that Manali is a part of the ‘valley of gods.’
There are various places of interest in the vicinity. Foremost is the Rohtang Pass. At a distance of about 50 km. One drives through Marhi, a good picnic spot. Then there is the Rani Nullah. The cabby calls it the Khooni Nullah. An interesting spot. The Pass itself is at the highest point on the road — at an altitude of 4112m. Despite the height, breathing poses no problem. It gets a good amount of snow every year. In winter, people come for skiing. The road leads to Keylong and Kaza.
Then there is the picturesque Solang valley. It has a nice meadow surrounded by silver oaks and other trees. Provides facilities for horse riding and paragliding. Also, there is a small town called Naggar. With its apple orchards. The old palace. The Roerich Art Gallery, which has a collection of the paintings of Russian painter — Nicholas Roerich.
The Beas with its big boulders, the rising mountains with tall trees and the snow-covered peaks combine to make Manali beautiful. Look in any direction, there is something good to see. At the same time, one cannot shut the eyes to another reality. The open spaces seem to be dwindling by the day. The monsters of steel and cement are rising all the time.The rise in the number of buildings is symbolic of an increase in the popularity of the place. But it is already beginning to show signs of pressure on the limited resources.
About 20 years ago, log-huts were a popular destination. The area was very open. The air was fresh. The environment was clean. The whole place was beautiful.Now it seems totally crowded. Too many hotels. Too many vehicles. The diesel fumes ruin the walk. The continuous honking disturbs the peace and tranquility of the place. The city is already beginning to show signs of environmental pollution.
An action plan must be prepared without any loss of time. No vehicle beyond a point and no more buildings in the areas that are already full. No chimneys emitting smoke and to ensure compliance, adequate parking facilities with proper security must be provided. New areas for additional buildings must be identified. This would ensure development of the place without affecting the ecology.
Another thought comes to mind. The Swiss have the Alps. And they attract so many tourists. We have so much -- beaches and backwaters. Hills, mountains and valleys, birds and sanctuaries. Wildlife. And yet, we attract only a few tourists. Why? We do not take care of what we have. We do not even sell what we can.
Let us make a beginning with Manali. It
is still magnificent. We must not allow it to be ruined. Is anyone from
the Himachal Tourism Development Corporation listening?