“Nature always triumphs one way or the other. We are too puny for the forces of nature that we deal with,” said noted photographer and trekker Ganesh Saili, speaking at a session on ‘Himalayas: The Lost Horizon’ at the Kasauli Literature Festival.
Saili was making the remark in context of the plunder of forests that took place in the Garhwal Himalayas during the British rule as well as after Independence.
“Large tracts of forests were decimated in Harsil valley when trees were cut to provide wood for the massive Railway project of the British in the 1800s,” he said.
He particularly referred to the role of a Britisher who made lot of money from supplying the wood by chopping down trees and floating them down the Bhagirathi as there were no roads back then.
However, all was not lost, said Saili adding that the deforestation of the mountains was gradually being reversed and the hillsides are going green again.
The session also saw participation of Dalhousie resident Kiran Chadha who has written a book on the quaint hill station and who also has been championing the cause of a clean Dalhousie.
Kiran traced the roots of her family in Dalhousie and said that her curiosity about the town and its surrounding areas led her to write the book “Dalhousie: My hometown, my love”.
“It started as a historical facts and figures project and then I started meeting people, particularly old Chowkidars who are a storehouse of knowledge,” she said. She revealed that the town was founded by Britishers who had come to the area on the invitation of the Raja of Chamba for hunting.
“You would be surprised to know that the Britishers purchased the place for less than Rs 2,000 from the Raja of Chamba,” she said. Chadha and Saili recalled the interesting people they had met in Himachal and Mussoorie. He also shared how he came across Jim Keeler, the grandson of Brigadier General Reginald Dyer — who ordered his troops to fire at a crowd of more than 20,000 people at Jallianwala Bagh.
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