Advani’s Shimla rally worries locals about effect on Ridge

December 29th, 2008 - 1:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyShimla, Dec 29 (IANS) Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani is set to address a huge rally in this Himachal Pradesh capital Tuesday, but many residents and geologists feel the makeshift structures being erected for the event could harm the Ridge which holds Shimla’s main water supply. It has already developed cracks during the recent rains.The rally is being held to mark the completion of one year of the BJP government in the state and preparations are on in full swing at the Ridge, an open space above the town’s hub known as the Mall.

“Haphazard activities like the movement of vehicles carrying tents and other paraphernalia for the rally and digging up pits for setting up structures might disturb the geological equilibrium of the fragile Ridge,” said a state public works department official who requested anonymity.

He said huge cracks had appeared on the Ridge after a few days of heavy rains in September, which not only threatens the Mall, but also buildings housing government offices on the hill top.

“The way the rally organisers are mindlessly digging up dozens of pits to erect a podium, it’s an assault on the Ridge,” said Ravinder Kumar, former head of the geology department at Panjab University, Chandigarh.

“Rapid activities have already put tremendous pressure on the Ridge and weakened its hydrological system. The government should completely ban public rallies and commercial activities on the hill top,” he said.

The Ridge was established over 150 years ago by the British and served as the main bazaar with shops all around. Later, the British decided to clear the Ridge for public events and the shops were pulled down.

“They (the rally organisers) are playing with the life of the Ridge. There is a need to protect it from certain destruction as it rests on the city’s water supply system that stores 4.6 million litres of water in a tank 45 metres in length and 32 metres wide. The tank has nine chambers and was probably built in 1883,” said M.R. Kaundal, who has been living in Shimla since 1950.

Advani’s scheduled visit is also irking tourists.

“The movement of vehicles from the restricted lanes of the Mall and preparation activities on the venue is disturbing the cool environs of the hills. The government should not allow such activities in the hub of the town,” said Rakesh Nag, a tourist from Mumbai.

According to cabinet minister Rajeev Bindal, more than 50,000 party activists are expected to attend Tuesday’s rally.

Shimla’s Municipal Corporation Commissioner Amitabh Awasthi said the administration had no option but to hold the rally on the Ridge.

“The Ridge is totally safe. There is no need to worry,” he said.

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