For several years now, Shimla, the Queen of Hills, hadn’t seen early December snowfall. On Wednesday, after the season’s coldest night with the temperature dipping to minus 2 degrees Celsius, the town woke up to a snowfall, the first this season.
Morning walkers were first to smell the change in the air. “Happy snowfall,” greeted Bansi Dhar Pathak, a retired officer from state’s PWD and a regular walker at Forest Road. Taking small steps on the soft snow, Pathak said: “I don’t remember when it snowed last this early in December. It is heartening to see early snow as global warming has taken away what the Britishers’ chose Shimla for.”
The tourists were equally exuberant. Some left their beds immediately on hearing about the snowfall and reached the Ridge and the Mall Road of the town to enjoy white charm.
“I had never seen snowfall in my life. This is amazing. Nature has blessed me and Shimla,“ said Kritika, an IT professional from Gurgaon, who is on her honeymoon here. She dragged her husband to the Ridge to post early morning pictures on Facebook.
For Shimla’s hotel industry, which had been experiencing hard days after the town witnessed its worst-ever drinking water crisis in June 2018, pre-Christmas snowfall has come as a blessing. “Though the weather has been favourable in the past fortnight, there were forecasts about snowfall. The early arrival of snowfall has raised hopes of a White Christmas and an exciting New Year. There will be a rush of tourists in the hills, apart from Shimla.”
“Low inflow of tourists on weekends and otherwise was hitting the tourism industry. Nature too has not been very kind to us. Snowfall on December 12 would indeed mean better days for us,” said Mohinder Seth, president, Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association.
Good snowfall will also boost Shimla’s water availability. In June, Shimla hit the headlines for its drinking water crisis lasting eight days when water availability dropped down to 18 million litres per day against the requirement of 40-42 MLD.
Though there has been an improvement in the availability of the drinking water in the town, snow will help recharge water sources.
Apple growers in Shimla’s Kotkhai, Kotgarh, Thanedar and Chopal belt who have been bearing the brunt of the climate change too are a relieved lot. “Early snowfall is like gold If there is good snowfall in December, we can hope for better days, at least in the next season,” says Devender Madhaik, an apple-grower of Kotkhai.
As of now, large parts of Himachal Pradesh are reeling under intense cold with the minimum temperature below the freezing point owing to snowfall at Narkanda and higher reaches including the entire tribal belt of Kinnaur and Lahual-Spiti.
Popular destination Manali, which saw 4.4 mm of rains, recorded a low of minus 0.4 degrees Celsius. Another picturesque tourist centre, Dalhousie in Chamba district, saw a low of minus 0.2 degrees Celsius.
(Ashwani Sharma is a senior journalist based in Shimla)