Unplanned construction in high seismic zone
Our Correspondent

Palampur, February 3
Despite the fact that the entire Dhauladhar ranges in the state fall under the most sensitive seismic zone of the country, haphazard and unplanned construction is going on unchecked.

In the past five years, Kangra district, particularly Palampur and Dharmshala towns, have turned into a huge concrete jungle.

After the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, the government of Himachal Pradesh has taken serious measures to regulate the construction activities in this region and also brought all important towns of Kangra district within the purview of the Town and Country Planning (TCP) Act. But, it is most surprising that hundreds of buildings, including residential houses and multi-storeyed complexes in the district, have come up without the prior approval of the TCP authorities.

Several hotels and malls with multi-storeyed structures have been constructed in gross violation of the rules. In most of the cases, buildings have come up without the approval of the TCP authorities. The defaulters had even managed to get electricity and drinking water supply connections.

It seems that there has been no check on such illegal construction works that are extending an open invitation for a major disasters like the one that occurred in Gujarat. Not only private parties but also the semi-government and the government agencies are not following the proper norms. It is most surprising that till date no action has been initiated against such defaulters.

The entire Dhauladhar ranges in the state fall in zone five and experts of the Seismology Department of Roorkee University have recommended earthquake-proof constructions for this region. But, it is a sad state of affairs that neither the TCP authorities nor the state government have followed these recommendations and measures suggested by the experts.

The Kangra earthquake of April 4, 1905 in the northwest Himalayas was the first of several devastating 20th century earthquakes to occur in northern India.

The then Punjab Government estimated that more than 20,000 of its 3,75,000 epicentral population was killed and that 1,00,000 buildings were destroyed by the earthquake. Farming was disrupted by the loss of 53,000 domestic animals and there was extensive damage to a network of hillside aqueducts that had been constructed over many generations.

The economic cost of recovering from the earthquake was estimated at Rs 2.9 million. Although this earthquake is not the only severe event known in the western Himalaya, it has the largest death toll and is the first to have occurred since the development of instrumental seismology. It was considered as one of the four great Himalayan earthquakes to have occurred in the past 200 years. 



Illegal mining threatens historic temple
Our Correspondent

Baijnath’s ancient Shiva Temple.
Baijnath’s ancient Shiva Temple.

Palampur, February 3
The ancient Shiva Temple at Baijnath, built in 1204 along the banks of the Binwa, is facing threat because of reckless quarrying and mining. The illegal activities have put a question mark on the future of the monument, which encompasses the essential features of the Nagara temples.

Despite the ban imposed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court, mining and quarrying in the Binwa is still going on unchecked.

It is stated that two local merchant brothers, Ahuka and Manyuka, built the temple. It lies on the main road to Kullu-Lahual Spiti, the age-old route to Central Asia. The temple consists of an adytum, 8 feet square inside and 18 feet outside surrounded by a spire of conical shape, and a mandapa, (front hall) 20 feet square inside covered with low pyramid-shaped roof.

The adytum contains the Shiv Lingum and has a small anteroom. Four massive pillars support the roof of the mandapa. Raja Sansar Chand, a Katoch ruler of Kangra, renovated the temple in the 19th century, but Aurel Steil, who studied the monument in 1892, said it had not undergone much alteration except the room.

At present, the temple is under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India. It has spent lakhs of rupees on the maintenance and development of surroundings of the temple during the past 10 years. Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit the temple every year. Besides, the state government has constituted a trust to manage its affairs.

A retaining wall of the temple is on the verge of collapse. It is a sad state of affairs that the temple, which remained intact during the major earthquake of Kangra in 1905, has been badly damaged by the unscientific mining in the river in the past 15 years.

The level of water in the river has gone down because of mining and it is affecting the stability of the temple compound.

The continuous land erosion can cause a huge damage to the monument at any moment if no serious efforts are made to stop the mining and quarrying in two to three km radius of the temple.

The state mining department is unconcerned with the situation. Mining officer expressed his ignorance and said the matter would be looked into. However, residents of the town blame the mining department, which has failed to regulate the mining activities in the Baijnath area.

The residents alleged that despite the orders of the court, no efforts were made to check the mining activities in the area. They said the lukewarm attitude of the department had not only affected the environment in the region but also resulted in huge loss to the state exchequer. Even the Pathankot-Jogindernagar rail line, which passes through the town, has also become quite unsafe as the mining and quarrying has hit the line at various points.

However, the administration is making all efforts to check the illegal mining, but feeling helpless because of increasing political interference in their functioning. A senior officer said the government was concerned about the safety of the monument and he had already taken up the matter with the government. He said the illegal quarrying and mining had not only caused loss to the temple but also damaged roads and water pipelines in the area in the past three years.



Groundwater a solution to water scarcity in hills: Expert
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, February 3
Water scarcity is emerging as a major problem in the hills due to fast depleting surface water sources. With snow becoming increasingly scarce and glaciers receding at an alarming rate, discharge in various natural sources is declining and many of them dry up completely during peak summers when the demand for water is high.

Every summer, about 25 to 30 per cent of the total 7,989 water supply schemes are affected due to a decline in the discharge.

Parts of the state invariably face drought-like situation during summers due to irregular monsoon. Moreover, the snowline has been retreating with each passing year and as a result some of the water sources dry up as soon as the summer sets in. The discharge in traditional water sources is dependent on snowfall and rains and there is no other way to recharge them.

The Irrigation and Public Health Department has to continuously look for new sources to augment the supply to meet the growing demand. As a result water is being brought from distant sources, mostly through lift-schemes, which require much power for pumping.

The latest examples are the Shimla and Solan towns for which water is being lifted all the way from the Giri River. The government has now come out with a Rs 715 crore project for the state capital to bring water from the Chanshal Lake located 180 km away, albeit through a gravity scheme, which will not involve any pumping of water.

However, groundwater expert Ritesh Arya disapproves of such projects and rejects the policy of supplying water to habitations through centralised schemes by tapping surface water. “A permanent solution to the problem could be found only by shifting the focus from surface water to groundwater.”

Arya who has found a place in the Guinness book of records for his achievements in striking groundwater at an altitude of 14,000 ft in the high reaches of Ladakh, is of the firm view that global warming is an irreversible process and glaciers would continue to melt and snowline would keep receding, affecting the availability of the surface water. But groundwater is available in abundance right up to the higher reaches of Himalayas. All that the government needs to do is to engage some expert geologists who have expertise in groundwater.

Unlike plains where water table has been declining or groundwater has been contaminated by industrial effluents, the groundwater is largely unexploited, clean and could be supplied without any treatment, whereas, surface water has been over-exploited, contaminated and its availability is uncertain. Further, groundwater could be supplied in a decentralised manner and requires no lengthy pipelines and pumping machinery, making it economically a much attractive proposition than surface water schemes, Arya explains.

At present, the water supply schemes follow a centralised pattern under which surface water is tapped from some source, collected and then distributed. Such schemes are costly and uneconomical as a large pipe network is required for distribution. Another disadvantage is that the tail-end users do not get adequate water and if the scheme develops a fault the entire population served by it suffers. There are no such problems with the decentralised schemes based on groundwater sources, as the surface water sources are depleting and engineers are struggling to find new sources that are mostly located far off.

As far as surface water is concerned, the focus should be on conservation and maintaining its quality that is fast deteriorating due to unscientific disposal of wastewater, industrial effluents and urban waste. Unscientific disposal of wastewater and poor sanitation contaminates surface water causing health hazards.



A Prime Minister’s buildings in Kaithu
by Shriniwas Joshi

Lt Col Nawab Sir Malik Khizar Hayat KHAN (1900-1975) came from a family that had been prominent among the landed aristocracy of Punjab since the 15th century. He was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1937, and immediately joined as PW minister in the Cabinet of Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, who had successfully led the Punjab Unionist Party in the elections.

He was the Prime Minister of Punjab from 1942 to 1947. His father was Maj Gen Sir Malik Umar Hayat Khan (1875-1944) who had acted as honorary aide-de-camp to George V and VI and served as a member of the Council of the Secretary of State for India from 1924 to 1934.

It is believed that during this period of his membership in the council, which used to meet in Shimla also, he raised three buildings in Kaithu - Lauriston having an area of 5715 sq yds with a tennis court et al, Garden Villa and Newton Villa. My belief gets support from a 1925 map of Shimla, issued by the surveyor-general of India that does not show any of these buildings, but dots Dutta Cottage.

Dutta Cottage belonged to an agriculturist, Ram Dutta, who had come from the Sarkaghat area of Mandi district to settle here and had built the cottage around 1868. It still has 1.5 acre of agriculture land attached to it and is a feasting table for monkeys and langurs right in the heart of Kaithu. The present owner, 70-year-young great grandson of Ram Dutta is often seen with a catapult in hand chasing the vermin. The monkeys keep him young.

Our subject of interest, however, is about a 100-m footpath that branches off the main Kaithu-Annandale road leading down the khud past Dutta Cottage and finally joins the lower road also leading to Annandale. In the days of Umar Hayat Khan, this path used to go through the grounds of Lauriston, the borders of which estate ran above Dutta Cottage. The huntsmen British used to tread on this path to enter the forests down Annandale or around Gawahi village. Crossing through this path, each shikari sahib would ask Ram Dutta to accompany him as he was a proven facilitator in game-chase. This stood him in good stead when Umar Hayat in 1928, obstructed the path by excavation and almost barred here the entry of Ram Dutta and members of his family.

The self-effacing and modest farmer had a backbone to go to court against Umar Hayat to proclaim his ownership right on the path. To this effect, he made J. Lister, secretary municipality; Buchanan, municipal engineer; CW Cotton of Morris and Cotton merchants; Maj AJ Ruegg living in a nearby Adavilla; W Burge, who lived in Nette Villa, adjacent to Annandale, and many others to stand in the witness box to give evidence in his support. And lo and behold, the decree was issued by KC Marten, a senior sub-judge, in his favour within 19 months of presenting the plaint. This is a real story of wrestle between diya and toofan in which the former wins over the latter.

The buildings, except Newton Villa that got burnt in early 1930s, passed on to Khizar Hayat in 1944 who, as Premier of Punjab till March 1947, lived in Shimla up to Independence and preferred to stay here in the official residence but would visit Lauriston often and spend the day playing chess which he was fond of. He was immaculately dressed and was generally seen in a snow-white plumed turban.

These buildings were put to auction as evacuee property after the Partition when Tiwanas left Shimla. Lauriston was bid highest by Tek Chand Chitkara, an advocate of repute. His progeny has been occupying it since 1954, and has given it a modern touch different from the earlier local kath-kuni form. Garden Villa is still a double storied wooden structure belonging to one Khurana and that where Newton Villa existed once was bagged by JR Mehndiratta. The landscape here has been changing fast and brick and mortar all around is so choking that open fields with Dutta Cottage are the only respiratory left.


Umar Hayat Khan gave his recreations in who’s who as "motoring, polo, pig-sticking, riding, shooting, athletics, hawking and coursing”.



shimla diary
Bus shelters needed on Sanjauli-Dhalli road

Traffic congestion on the narrow Sanjauli-Dhalli road has eased with the opening of the double-lane bypass. However, the failure of the public works department to construct rain shelters at the two ends of 
the 4-km long bypass is causing much inconvenience to the commuters who have to wait for buses in the open.

The department has completed the bypass project at a cost of over Rs 15.50 crore and it could have easily constructed rain shelters by spending another Rs 3 lakh. Shelters are required because the two ends of the road have now become the main bus stops for the residents of Sanjauli and Dhalli. There is no structure around the Lakkar Bazaar end, which falls in the cold zone, for commuters to take refuge during rain or snow.

Superintending engineer Naresh Sharma assures that rain shelters will be constructed at the earliest. Proposals will be submitted soon to the municipal authorities for approval. Once the building plans are cleared, work will be started immediately.

Now that an alternative road has been constructed the one-way Dhalli tunnel should be repaired. The department had a plan to bore another tunnel by the side of the existing one to remove traffic bottleneck. If it is serious about the proposal, it should start work on it. Further, the project to widen the Auckland Tunnel needs to be expedited as it has already fallen behind schedule by a year. Once it is completed, the flow of traffic congestion on the Lakkar Bazar side of the Circular Road will ease further. A lasting solution to the problem of traffic will be found only if a parallel tunnel is provided alongside the Victory Tunnel or any other suitable point. One feasible point was lost when the government constructed MLA hostel near the Vidhan Sabha.

Proud family of soldiers

Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch, Chief of Staff 10 Core, who has been awarded Vishishth Sewa Medal (VSM), is a proud son of Kangra whose four generations have served the nation through the Army.

His grandfather, Lt Narsinghu Chand Katoch, joined the 38 Dogra Regiment in 1890, and fought in the World War I for which he was awarded the Military Cross. His father, Col Tilak Chand Katoch, joined the 2 Dogra as a commissioned officer in 1942, which took active part in assuring safe passage to Hindus and Sikhs to India and Muslims to Pakistan in 1948. He also fought the 1965 war.

General Katoch himself took active part in insurgency areas in the North-East, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. He was awarded Sewa Medal while commanding 15 Dogra in Kashmir, the regiment once commanded by his father. His elder brother, Col RC Katoch, also served the army as a distinguished soldier. His nephew Maj Ritesh Katoch is presently serving 13 Dogra continuing the 118-year-old family tradition of serving the Army.

Katoch says his son, a student of class XI, also wants to serve the Army. The proud soldier, who retired on January 31, would love to serve his home state, particularly in the areas of environment protection and child education that have been his main interest.

Snow-less winter

It has been virtually a snow-less winter so far for the queen of hills and most other parts of Shimla district. Hill slopes in Kufri and even Narkanda are barren as the weather god has only obliged with a token snow which melted away instantly.

Skiing lovers have been disillusioned as normally slopes around Narkanda are under a thick white blanket during this part of the year. The tourism corporation and some private organisations have been regularly holding skiing training courses during winter. The first half of the current season is already over and with the mercury shooting up over the past one week there is little hope of a good snowfall in the region.

Snow in February is a normal phenomenon but unlike two decades ago it does not last for long due to high ambient temperature. Global warming apart, the spurt in construction activity in the recent years which has transformed the verdant hills into a veritable concrete jungle has brought about a sea change in the local climate. The lack of snow will certainly lead to water scarcity during summer.

Rakesh Lohumi



Bharmour to have playground
Our Correspondent

Bharmour, February 3
The Speaker, Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, Tulsi Ram has directed the authorities to put a thick layer of top soil on the Bharmour heliport so that green grass could be grown there with a view to developing a sports playground and promoting sports activities among the youths in the tribal valley.

The decision was taken at the tribal project advisory committee which was held at Bharmour under the chairmanship of the Speaker recently.

The Speaker said that in order to preserve and protect the folklore of the tribal region, all educational institutions, including schools and the lone degree college at Bharmour, would be provided funds for the purchase of traditional musical instruments and costumes also.

He underscored the need of optimal growth in the fields of horticulture, agriculture and animal husbandry to revitalise the economy of the local people.

After the identification of land at the suitable site for the construction of a degree college building, the case for the transfer of land was in the pipeline, the Speaker informed, adding that the process for the construction of an additional building of the mini-secretariat at Patti near Bharmour Township would be initiated soon.

At the meeting, committee member Chaman Lal suggested that there was an urgent need for the construction of buildings in Bajol, Quarshi, and Nayagran panchayats for which Rs 15 lakh had been sanctioned by the Speaker. Sanction had also been accorded to the budget amounting to Rs 15 lakh for the electrification work in the left-out hamlets in the Changui and Mindra remote areas.



Cement factory continues to disrupt life
Requests fall on deaf ears
Our correspondent

Bilaspur, February 3
Village leaders and members of the Kohinoor Social Development and Cultural Society of Lada Ghat- Sodha led by their president Dharam Paul Thakur met Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Vinay Singh recently. They presented him a memorandum detailing difficulties of thousands of villagers who have been directly or indirectly affected by the cement factory that is being set up by the JP Industries at Bagha Balag on the borders of Bilaspur and Solan districts near here.

They sought intervention of district administration in solving their day-to-day problems and said the cement factory management was giving no attention despite repeated requests of the village elders.

Memorandum demanded that factory should be asked to provide employment to local youths, should spend at least rupees one crore each year on providing various civic and other amenities in the area including construction of lavatories at Lada ghat and Malokhar, setting up of a “go sadan”, Health centre and ITI in this area and regular repairs of the road that is being destroyed by heavy machinery of the factory putting other residents in great difficulties every now and then.



Withdraw bus fare hike: BSP
Our Correspondent

Bilaspur, February 3
The state unit of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has demanded immediate withdrawal of the 25 per cent increase in bus fares and has warned that if this is not done immediately, it will start a statewide agitation and the state government will be responsible for it.

Addressing mediapersons here,state unit general secretary and former MLA Krishan Kumar Kaushal said that the state government had hiked bus fares by 25 per cent when the Centre had increased oil prices by only 2 per cent.

But since the central government had decreased the prices of oil twice, each time by 2 per cent ,the BJP government in the state had not yet withdrawn its 25 per cent increase in the bus fares.

Kaushal also demanded an inquiry into , what he said, silent charging of more than Rs 350 crore annually by the state electricity board as meter charges, sundry charges and service charges from 25 lakh consumers without any justification.

He said that all these charges were unwarranted and unjustified and must be immediately withdrawn.





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