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Visual pollution in Shimla City on rise as civic body and people losing sense of civility

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 SHIMLA- Although, it is not an odd sight for majority of public, but visual pollution in Himachal Pradesh’s capital city Shimla is becoming a critical problem because it is being neglected by both public and government equally. The consumer culture is taking over the city and the scenario is worsening due to sticking of promotional bills, commercial and political posters, bunting, sign-boards etc on public places. While cities like Beijing (China) and São Paulo (Brazil) have put a complete ban on virtually all outdoor advertising to deal with visual pollution, the civic body of Shimla City isn’t even able to adhere to defined standards  and directions for placement of billboards and hoardings.

Like most of the cities in India, queen of hills is also on the verge of losing its unique identity because every city share same cluttered view. Although, Municipal Corporation of Shimla does have defined rules & regulation regarding advertising on public places, in reality there is no execution in field. The civic body that always make excuses of shortage of funds can generate considerable revenue if it regulates advertising on public places.

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Entire Public Rain Shelter Defaced by Posters and Bills

Not only the public has lost aesthetic sense growing amid clutter, but even highly educated and well paid public servants and representatives lack required vision to foresee ugly consequences of not controlling visual pollution.

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Ugly web of overhead cable clutter around Shimla Mall

Entire city is cluttered by unlawfully stuck posters, overhead power lines, telephone and cable wires, and littered public places. Graffiti on public and private property is another mean to create visual pollution.
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The civic body or administration of Shimla is never heard debating or preparing comprehensive strategies to deal with well any form of pollution like air and water pollution.  So, it’s futile to expect them to observe other forms of pollution like visual, noise, light pollution etc.

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Public benches at Boileauganj Bus Stop

Treatment of public spaces by student outfits of higher educational institutes like Himachal Pradesh University and colleges is even more surprising. Student bodies, despite being educated, don’t show respect and care towards public property.  Students even deface legally placed hoardings as shown in above image.

Researchers have conducted studies along with laboratory experiments to establish negative psychological impact on people who are unwillingly exposed continuously to unwanted visuals.

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Visual environment is no less significant a part of fabric of communities as clean water or air and animal habitat. The issue isn’t been paid heed earlier because it is mostly considered less significant and merely associated with beautification. It is newer and unconventional concept. Anything altered by human-activities that are unattractive and affects people’s ability to enjoy or appreciate the view and vista.

On the other hand, visual pollution is a kind of visual sampler, without any regulation, which affects our assimilation capability and conditions the aesthetics of our public spaces.

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Building of Primary School Bolieauganj

Considering the aforesaid statement, Shimla cityscapes have become a mixture of of irregular formations, unorganized dumping of litters, billboards, cables, wires, worn-out buildings, and heaped and congested construction.

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Poorly Pasted Posters on Poorly Maintained Structure

Impacts of visual Pollution

A study published in the European Scientific Journal, June 2015, “Visual Pollution Can Have Deep Degrading effects on Urban and Sub-Urban Community: A Study In Few Places of Bengal, India, With Special References to Unorganized Billboards” shed light on some of the negative impacts.

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HPU Student outfit bunting hanging over heads of people

Negative visual influence increases secretion of adrenaline, which raises the acidity of the stomach and rapid the heart rate, and thus speed irritability.

On the other hand, positive scenes increases secretion of cortisone in the body and this natural cortisone reduces the feeling of pain.

Visual pollution can also create psychological aversion and thus affect mental and physical health, says researches.

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Due to unpleasant and cluttered sights visual cortex of a person is stressed. This stress is directly associated with the light frequency and variety of light to which it is exposed. Citizens are exposed, without any consideration or respect to their individuality, to a constant visual saturation. Unconscious irritation of the visual cortex can interfere with performance and sleep quality.

Studies also show that effects of visual pollution include distraction, decreases in opinion diversity, and loss of identity, and health hazards of diverse kinds, irritability and psychological disturbances, eye fatigue, loss of sense of hygiene, and felling of civility.

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Clutter of cables crawling over Software Technology Park of India in Kasumpti, Shimla.

Loss of Aesthetic Sense in Children

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Bunting not removed after a recent student rally

Children growing up in such cluttered environment not only lose aesthetic sense, but also lose ability to react or correct it. As grownups, no matter how unpleasant their surroundings are, this clutter becomes an acceptable part of routine view. Their aesthetic sense is blunted. Civic sense and civic behavior of entire society is badly hit by it.

Psychological Longing for Natural View

Another evident proof that cluttered public spaces caste negative impact on overall wellbeing of public is our longing to witness nature in its pure form. To re-energize themselves, people mostly prefer to visit a forest, a seaside, garden, and parks which are supposedly visually and aesthetically pleasing as compared to visiting a mall or waling by roadside.

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Old ISBT Shimla

The civic bodies in popular towns of Himachal Pradesh are already struggling to manage, vehicular emissions, solid waste-disposal and to create awareness among people about littering in public places. It is no surprise that administration isn’t paying any attention to this form of pollution. However, it is the need of the time to consider other forms of pollution as hazard to social environment and economic health of a city dependent on tourism.

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On (Otherwise Beautiful) ITI Road Shimla

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Rear Side of Shimla Mall Showroom Buildings

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Photo Credit: Tarun Sharma

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Himachal to launch Polythene Hatao Paryavaran Bachao Campaign along with plantation of 15 lakh plants

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Plastic Hatao Paryavaran bachao campaign

Shimla: While the two Municipal Corporations of Himachal Pradesh and Municipal Councils of various towns are nowhere near the solid waste segregation and proper disposal, the State Environment, Science and Technology will be launching a week-long ‘Polythene Hatao Paryavaran Bachao Campaign’ from May 27 to June 2, 2018, across the State to motivate people for the elimination of polythene and protection of the environment, Director D.C. Rana informed on Friday.

He said that this campaign would be coordinated in each district by urban local bodies and PRIs under the supervision of Deputy Commissioner.

Cooperation of all government offices, NGO’s would also be sought. Public representatives, MLA’s, Ministers would also be approached for motivating people towards shunning polythene and protecting the environment.

Efforts would also be made for cleaning of water bodies, areas near water sources, tourist places etc, during the campaign, he added.

Plantation Drive during HP Van Mahotsava

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) G.S. Goraya on Friday informed that 15 lakh plants would be planted in the state during three days plantation campaign after holding of State Level Van Mahotsava between 9 to July 15 this year.

A plantation campaign would be taken up throughout the state for three days starting two days after holding of State level Van Mahotsava between the said dates. In addition to the local communities, all members of H.P. Vidhan Sabha would also be requested to participate in the planting campaign at any of the sites on the date convenient to them.

The matter regarding the implementation of Reward Scheme for the staff of the Forest department, communities, and schools, which are doing good work in nursery raising, carrying out plantations, and forest protection work, was also discussed.

Fields officers were requested to send their suggestions on criteria to be fixed to judge good performances for purpose of nominating and finalizing the recipients of the proposed rewards.

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Creative Corner

Mulakaat: A candid video shot in Manali dedicated to Mother Nature

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Kullu: A Manali-based startup, 4Play, has offered perhaps the most wonderful tribute to the mother- nature on this Mother’s day. In just four days, a team of youths at 4Play prepared a video, which includes some very well shot scenes and fresh glimpses of marvellous landscapes of Manali.

Watch Video

The video features Praveen Ghanghas (29), a nomadic mountain lover, who can be seen climbing up a high deodar tree and standing at the top of it like an eagle. No need to say, the view was breathtaking.

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Praveen Ghanghas in action

The 4Play shared some pictures of Praveen, who is definitely a fitness freak, with Himachal Watcher (HW).

He is a professional mountaineer with specialization in mountain search & rescue along with being a certified wilderness medical first aid responder. He is a part of the 4Play team and leads operations of all technical shoots at 4Play.

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Praveen Ghanghas in action

Nature has been depicted as a caring mother, who’s always willing to give without complaining. Similarly, Mother Nature does not a complaint about the wrath that the humankind has unleashed on it. So, we owe an apology to it for irreversible damage human developmental activities have done to nature.

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Human flag by Praveen Ghanghas

Ironically, the Manali, like rest of the tourist towns, is overburdened with ever increasing tourist flow, and the resources of the place are falling victim to over-exploitation. The ecology is heading towards its doom while the government and the people are thinking only about exploiting the beauty of Manali for money.

We have been lately trying to bring forth the subject how the weight on the mountains is increasing and how the growing tourism is only making it worse. We have lately done stories on the same line. So on the occasion of Mother’s Day, we wanted to send out this video as an acknowledgement to all mothers (even mother nature) who never complain and continue to take care of us despite everything

, Shantanu Negi of 4Play told Himachal Watcher.

Is not it an excellent way to tell people to spend more time with nature and care-back for it?

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The video came from the same team that was behind ‘Bawali Booch’ – a short musical and adventurous tour of Manali town. It’s worth your time.

About 4Play

4Play is a start-up that is catering exclusively to the Extreme, Adventure and Action sports communities in India. Curating stories from the Indian outdoors, the group is currently weaving Eastern Hemisphere’s first content network for extreme and action sports. The team is looking forward to getting into the international arena so that athletes could gain mainstream attention.

Initially, the three founders of the start-up set, Anuj, Kshitij and Sukrit, set up their own shop in a rented apartment in a shady alley of New Delhi. However, they soon realised that metropolis was way unaffordable compared to their meagre investment. That is when they made the decision to move the operations to a quaint place, away from the much-crowded Tier 1 & 2 cities.

Very recently, the start-up launched an incubation program at Indian Institute of Technology IIIT), Mandi – Catalyst. The founders say that being one of the few startups in the region, 4Play enrolled for the program to lay the foundation of a community to spearhead enterprise in the region.

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Environment

Taxi operators cheer after Manali-Rohtang ‘electric bus service’ cancelled ahead of peak tourist season

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Electric bus service in Rohtang cancelled

Shimla: The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur was supposed to flag-off the much awaited electric bus service on April 30, 2018, from Manali to Rohtang for the tourists.  However, it was cancelled at the last moment. 

It doesn’t sound like a co-incident that the members of the Him Anchal Taxi Union, Manali, had approached the minister urging him to not to begin the service as it was hitting their livelihood. Otherwise, a protest was already planned ahead of the CM’s visit to Kullu.

However, the ceremony was cancelled suddenly.

The peak tourist season beings in May, therefore, the taxi operators are cheering as the tourists won’t have any other option but to hire expensive services of the cabs.  

Himachal Pradesh had not only become the first state to commission 100 percent battery-powered electric buses but also the first in the world to ply them at an altitude of 3, 978 meters (13,000 feet) on mountainous terrain of Pir Panjal ranges of the eastern Himalayas when Transport Minister GS Bali flagged off the first bus on September 22, 2017.

The decision had faced protest from the local cab operators back then too.

However, it was on November 14, 2018, that two of the newly commissioned electric buses on Manali-Rohtang Pass stretch begun ferrying passengers on a regular basis. The HRTC was charging Rs. 600 per seat for a two-way trip starting from Manali to the Rohtang snowline.

The electric buses are manufactured in a tie-up with Chinese firm BYD Auto Industry Co Ltd. Each bus costs 1.70 crores and Himachal had bought 25 of them at that time. The total cost of this deal was Rs. 48 crores.  

The CM, however, said he was not under any pressure and some unfinished formalities caused the cancellation.  He did not mention anything specific about the period for which the introduction of the e-buses would remain pending.

The CM also contradicted his statements given to media in which it was suggested that the government was looking to find a middle-path to provide relief to the taxi operators. Also, the taxi union said the operators were ensured that the e-bus service would be put on hold. 

 The decision was taken by the previous government after the National Green Tribunal had lashed out at it for unchecked environmental degradation around Rohtang Pass due to increasing load of domestic and international tourism.

The taxi operators had been protesting against the NGT orders as well as the plying of electric buses. The previous government could not ignore the orders despite the protests.

In 2014, taking note of research works pointing out fastening of glacier melting in the vicinity to Rohtang and blacking of the snow due to heavy vehicular emissions, the NGT had restricted the entry of vehicles to only 1,000 including both diesel and petrol.

The transport minister is also of the view that the developmental works would be taken up only after considering the interests of the people first.

Though the decision would benefit the local taxi operators and the hospitality industry, it can’t be done at the cost of environmental degradation. It must not be forgotten that the tourism industry exists because of the natural beauty and purity of the air in Rohtang Pass.

Therefore, we should hope that the government would not take such crucial decision to temporarily please a section of the hospitality industry.  The environmental protection lies at the root of human survival and delay in taking measures to avert it will only make it worse.

We hope that the government would actually come out with some productive solution to ensure the protection of both – the interests of the locals as well as environmental protection.    

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