Warm hills of Himachal - yes that’s right!

June 5th, 2009 - 10:34 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, June 5 (IANS) Planning to head to the hills of Himachal Pradesh to beat the heat? You might not get much relief, as global warming, declining forest cover and rise in pollution have rendered the hills unusually warm.

According to the meteorological department here, the mean maximum and minimum throughout the year remains one to four degrees Celsius above average.

“The average maximum and minimum temperature is comparatively increasing alarmingly across the state,” Manmohan Singh, director of the Shimla meteorological office, told IANS.

“Popular tourist resorts like Narkanda, Kufri, Kasauli, Manali, Dharamsala, Palampur, Chamba and Dalhousie also saw a rise in the minimum and maximum average temperatures throughout the year.”

The average maximum temperature has increased from 10.3 degrees Celsius in January 2004 to 14.4 degrees in January this year.

Similarly, the hills are feeling more heat during the summer. The average maximum temperature of Shimla has increased from 20 degrees Celsius in May 2004 to 25 degrees in May this year. This city was once known as the summer capital of the British, with people escaping to its cool climes to beat the heat in the northern plains.

Himachal’s Environment Minister J.P. Nadda told IANS: “There has been a noticeable change in the snowfall pattern in the state in the past 10-12 years. It’s a matter of concern.

“The hills are warming up faster, the snowline is declining and glaciers are receding. Earlier, there was an accumulation of three to four feet of snow in most of the mid-hills till March-end. This year most districts have experienced a relatively warm and dry winter.”

Nadda attributed the change in climatic patterns to global warming, declining forests and rise in pollution.

“Due to an increase in vehicular and industrial pollution, the temperature fails to reach the freezing point. Similarly, a large number of buildings now have tin roofs that absorb greater heat as compared to the previously used slate roofs. These lead to heat accumulation in the atmosphere.”

R.K. Sood, joint member secretary of the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, says the winter in Shimla is not as harsh now as it was till the late 1970s.

He recalled that once in the early 1960s, the minimum temperature here had plunged to minus 13 degrees Celsius.

“This winter was exceptional as Shimla and its nearby areas saw just 15 centimetres of snowfall Feb 11 and there was no snow before or after that,” Sood said.

M.R. Kaundal, a former joint director of the state horticulture department who has been settled in this town since 1950, said: “More than a decade has passed since we witnessed heavy snow on Christmas. It was 1991 when the town last witnessed 49 cm of snowfall on Christmas Eve.”

Minister Nadda said the state would soon have its environmental master plan to tackle critical areas of environmental degradation.

“The master plan will include a baseline study of the environmental vulnerabilities and details of measures to tackle problems mainly related to urban solid waste, industrial pollution and ecological degradation caused by hydropower projects,” he said.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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