Head to Devprayag, an hour’s drive from Rishikesh, and you’ll come across a secluded teahouse.
A few minutes’ walk downhill from the tea stall and across the Ganges bridge to a few couples with photographers and entourages of friends preparing for their pre-wedding photo shoot in the morning in tolerable temperatures. come across.
Discovered and amplified on social media, the bridge over Rishikesh is now a go-to spot for most tourists, among other places in the state.
One of the most Googled questions about Himachal Pradesh is about the ideal month to visit Lahore and Spiti.
Known as one of India’s best stargazing spots, this remote district of Himachal Pradesh has once again been made famous by professional photographers thanks to social media. night.
A 16-hour drive from the capital through the Atal Tunnel, the district saw a 622% increase in tourist arrivals between 2019 and 2022.
Like the two sites above, hundreds of other hidden spots connected only by old roads are now becoming integral to the economy of the Himalayan region.
But the Josimart situation raises a multi-billion dollar issue of development and ecosystems.
For many who have questioned the need for a developed all-weather road to Char Dham and the border between India and China, the episode at Joshimath may offer an opportunity to further their debate. , that’s the wrong lesson to draw from the entire episode.
As this Swarajah report explains, Joshimat “lies not on rock, but on an ancient landslide on top of sand and stone deposits”.
The three main factors behind Joshimath’s current situation are:
The fragile base of Joshimas, as it was developed over a century ago on the rubble of landslides caused by earthquakes.
It is located in seismic zone V where earthquakes are likely to occur.
In addition, gradual weathering and water infiltration that reduce rock cohesion over time
It’s no one’s or any agency’s fault that the Himalayas are a relatively young mountain range and prone to earthquakes.
We cannot undermine the importance of economic development, infrastructure, tourism, trade, reduced transport costs, access to better health and education, connectivity to cities and all-weather accessibility.
Even the locals around Joshimat are not responsible for building houses and shops. Because more legs opens up economic opportunities that are further complemented by infrastructure.
But the responsibility must be to allow construction of buildings in areas of Josimart where instability is well documented, well-known and evident.
The lesson from Joshimath is to find a balance between economy and ecology by not ignoring the obvious facts about the physical landscape of any region.
An important lesson is that the city of Shimla, which started on one side of the mountain, now spreads over more than five sides.
The Kalka-Shimla highway is one of the most difficult highways in the country in terms of construction.
However, its economic importance to the region cannot be underestimated. Landslides often occur during the monsoon season, creating fissures and rendering half the highway unusable.
However, extended hill capitals pose a problem. His four-story building recently collapsed in the city, and no lives were lost. In 2021, an eight-story building also collapsed.
Shimla, which falls into seismic zone 5, has witnessed the chaotic and disorderly construction of houses and hotels, all of which are four or more storeys high.
Summer droughts due to tourist pressure are becoming commonplace in cities. Yet every week, the city receives thousands of tourists from all over North India.
Shimla, along with Josimaat, must be seen as a warning to future governments for the development of the Himalayan nations.
No region suffers from the tyranny of distance as the Northeast experienced before 2014, but the lessons of the past must draw a line.
The scenes surfacing today from Josimaat are a testament to how the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have been subjected to unregulated construction activities. Developing the area as an economic hotspot (horticulture, hotels, etc.) is essential, but the regulations governing expansion capacity must be strictly enforced to prevent another shimla or joshimat.
Sammed Shikharji: A Case of Misplaced Priorities
It’s not uncommon for cities with temples to be turned into attractions, but some state governments have gone wild in trying to deprive temples and historical sites of their sacredness.
A good example is the Atari border, a few kilometers from Amritsar.
Under Punjab Tourism, Shahi Kira There is a family restaurant and a kids zone less than 100 meters from the border. This cramped addition not only reduces the stature of the place, but also robs it of its historical significance and sanctity.
Looking at the Atari border in Amritsar, it was not difficult to side with the protesting Jains for fear of the same thing happening in Samet Shikarji.
The Jharkhand government, in what appeared to be a clear case of misprioritization, was unfair to the Jains.
But eventually a better feeling prevailed and the place was no longer classified as a tourist center.
There are success stories on the other side of the spectrum. This allows access and connection to religious sites while ensuring holiness and piety.
The Kashi Corridor, the Bande Bharat Express from Delhi to Katra, for devotees visiting Vaishno Devi, the Ram Mandir appearing in Ayodhya, and even the Golden Temple in Amritsar.All are examples of religious tourism Complemented by commerce.
The importance of commerce to any religious circuit cannot be ignored, but commerce cannot sacrifice the sanctity of the temple in question.
Even Narendra Modi’s Ministry of Tourism has recognized the potential of balancing religious tourism and commerce.
In 2014-2015, the Swadesh Darshan Scheme was announced to provide financial support to the state for the development of pilgrimage routes.
Fifteen circuits were identified, including Himalayan circuits, Buddhist circuits, and even the Northeast circuit.
The government understandably wanted a booming religious tourism economy while maintaining the historic sanctity of all the spots.
The last word
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this complex equation.
The events at Joshimath will not lead to a halt to the development of other Himalayan regions, nor will Sammed Shikharji’s political solutions be used to slow the development of other religious circuits.
In short, highways are important, and commerce around religious sites is essential.
Going forward, governments will need to balance the sacredness of sacred sites with their economic potential, infrastructure development and ecology.
It’s a complex balance, one that justifies all kinds of improvisation at every step, but it has to be achieved.
more plans. More accountability. more balance.