Dalhousie’s natural beauty is threatened by over tourism and construction of new hotels
Dalhousie, the charming hill station situated on the lap of the Dhauladhar Hills and Pir Pangal range, was once a hub for tourists from all over India and abroad. Its colonial architecture and rich cultural heritage, coupled with breathtaking views of the towering deodar trees against the clear blue sky, made it a center of attraction. The town was known for its tranquil atmosphere that offered an opportunity for introspection and self-discovery; much like what Rabindranath Tagore and Vivekanand sought.
Dalhousie has a range of activities to offer; such as nature walks, waterfall, dense forest trails, heritage walks, cafes and market in Mall road. The small town is surrounded by the lush trees of Deodar. As you roam around the town, the scenery around you seems to change, and one will be in awe of all its beauty.
We’ve grown up watching Bollywood films, where Dalhousie is always portrayed as a town which has the peaceful ambiance to calm the mind and purify the heart. And, in reality too, the town had it all. From great poets to freedom fighters—this place was their tranquil house.
However, in recent times, the town has witnessed a decline in its charm. Overcrowding has led to the construction of concrete buildings, which are gradually taking over the town’s natural beauty. The influx of low-quality tourists has also contributed to the degradation of the place. The town’s activities have become limited, and the lack of innovation has taken a toll on its appeal.
According to the local media reports, over 50 new hotels popped up in the town over the last five years alone. As SSZee Media spoke to Varun Kumar, Senior Manager in Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, he said that although the construction has been on rapid speed, every step has been taken according to rules and regulations.
“I cannot talk about the private land owners as we do not control them but when it comes to commercial structures, we follow every government rule related to commercial structures,” said Kumar.
Kumar did not deny the fact that the town has changed geographically over the years but he believes it hasn’t lost the charm yet. “We cannot say that only construction is leading to climate change in the region, it is happening globally. This year the snowfall was really less but we are hopeful that tourist would come in numbers in this season,” said Kumar.
However, locals have a different perspective about the changing climate patterns and tourism practices. Speaking to native residents of Dalhousie and shopkeepers in mall road, the town has changed in both ways—socially and climate wise as well.
“I have seen this town changing over the years. There is no snowfall when it should be, it never rains on time. In past 10-15 years, everything has changed dramatically,” said Ashok Sharma, a 65-years old resident of Dalhousie.
“With time tourist inflow has also been affected. The numbers of tourists may be increasing but it is not like before when we would meet tourist with enthusiasm to explore the nature. Tourist these days are looking for quickest ways to achieve peace,” added Sharma.
Nikhil, who runs his own taxi in the town said, “We are taking tourists at same places from past so many years. There is nothing which we can offer extra to the people. The true meaning of Dalhousie is in its forest and scenery”.
“If I go back 10 years ago, the tourist was more interested in exploring the town but now the meanings of this hill station is changing,” told Amit Mahajan, who has been running a shop on the mall road for nearly 30 years.
Amit shared his concern about “less tourist”, said, “This year snowfall was near to nothing. If there is no snow, there will be no tourist as well.”
“And, the town has nothing new to offer. We are doing the same thing from past many years,” He said with a grim smile on his face.
Amit who has a shop of wooden items said that the mall road market has reduced a large number of shops in the past few years. “There used to be so many similar (seller of wooden items) shops in this one line but now you see I am the only left in this stretch.”
With another tourist season kick starting this April, hill stations like Dalhousie needs sustainable and responsible tourism practices to keep the beauty of the town intact. As I navigated through the town romanticizing forest sceneries, I was missing the connection with the nature.