India Business
Snow, the white gold of Himachal
Feb 14, 2007 - 9:44:53 AM

Shimla, Feb 14 - A heavy spell of snowfall in Himachal Pradesh has ended the long drought in the state, bringing cheer to apple and stone fruit growers as well as the tourism industry.

The snow in the mid hills began over the weekend and intermittent spells continued Tuesday in many resorts. Shimla town is under deep snow after it received the heaviest spell of February snowfall Sunday since 1990, says the weather office.

'The snow is a saviour for the apple and stone fruit orchards as the plants were in dire need of moisture for the last couple of months,' said Lekh Raj Chauhan, president of the state fruit and vegetable growers' association.

The mid hills of the state have large tracts of orchards of apple and stone fruits, which include plum, cherry, apricot and peach. The winter snow is crucial for the trees so that they can bear good fruit in summer.

Snow is considered like natural manure for apple cultivation. A poor winter last year resulted in a huge drop in apple cultivation to less than half to 265,000 tonnes from 540,000 tonnes two years ago.

'The temperatures are hovering below 5 degrees Celsius in most of the apple belt of the state which is ideal for the chilling requirement of the fruit plants at this time of the year,' said S.P. Bharadwaj, a senior fruit scientist here.

'Rabi and other crops in the state will benefit immensely from this snow. Besides, the glaciers and rivers in the high mountains have been recharged to some extent,' said J.C. Kuniyal, a senior scientist at the G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development.

The tourism and hotel industries are also happy at the good snowfall across the many resort towns of the state.

Hotel occupancy has sharply risen in Shimla as the Kalka-Shimla highway remains open for vehicular traffic. After a light spell of snowfall in early December, most resorts in the state had been wearing a deserted look due to lack of snowfall this winter.

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