India Travel
Snow-less in Himachal after 37 years
Feb 4, 2007 - 10:24:08 AM

Shimla, Feb 4 - Peaks and valleys that wear a thick blanket of snow at this time of the year in Himachal Pradesh - which literally means land of snow - are mostly snow-less and rainless this winter.

Weathermen here say the state went without snow and rain in January for the first time in almost four decades - or more precisely 37 years.

January is considered the coldest and wettest month of the winter season. The chill, snow and rain are crucial for the countryside where some 90 percent of the hill folk live on farming.

The dry spell could hit apple orchards the most. The apple economy at Rs.15 billion is the hill state's main cash crop and has farmers worried.

'The drought this year isn't a good sign at all for the crop which will be harvested in summer -,' said Lekh Raj Chauhan, president of the state fruit and vegetable growers' association.

'The continuous drought has begun to dry up trees which could be backbreaking for farmers in the long run,' Chauhan told IANS.

'But we're still hoping for some late winter snow and rain in February,' he said.

'It is really unusual to see the mountains in Himachal without snow at this time of the year. The western disturbance is taking place but the current is so weak it is not resulting in snow or rain. That is why January has gone snow-less after 37 years,' said Manmohan Singh, the head of the Shimla meteorological office.

'The temperatures in the past two weeks have been some eight degrees above normal and touched 18 degrees Celsius in Shimla. The normal temperature at this time of the year usually varies between two degrees Celsius to nine degrees Celsius in Shimla,' Singh said.

The mercury rise is breaking new records at many places across the state this winter.

Usually hotels in the popular resorts of Shimla, Kullu Manali, Dharamsala, Dalhousie, Chail, Kufri, Narkanda and Kasauli draw tourists in large numbers.

'But due to lack of snow most of these hill stations are wearing a deserted look this winter,' said a travel agent.

Even more surprising is the lack of snow in the high mountains of Lahaul, Spiti, Bharmaur, Kinnuar and Dodra Kwar. The snow has been scanty in these high mountains of the tribal belt, which experiences some of the harshest winters in the entire country.

The 13,050 ft high Rohtang pass, also called the gateway to the Lahaul valley, is usually some 20 feet under deep snow by now. But this season the snow is barely a few feet deep and if snow doesn't fall this month the pass could open in a record time in spring.

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