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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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Himachal: Report Forest Fires on Toll-Free Numbers 1077 and 1070

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helpline for Forest Fires in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Forest fire is a recurrent annual phenomenon in Himachal Pradesh and causes losses worth several crores every year. Dry spell and summers make forests, especially chir pine forests, highly vulnerable to forest fires. These forest fires not only damage the forest wealth but also hit wildlife and biodiversity in general. The forest department attributes most fires to human factors.

Like every year, the forest department has claimed that it is all geared up and ready to combat forest fires this year too. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr. Savita on Monday held a virtual review meeting with Forest Circles on preparedness for forest fires in the state.

She said that the Forest department was well prepared to fight the forest fires and a rapid forest fire fighting force and rapid response teams had been set up at forest division and range levels.

“Approximately 40,000 man-days of fire watchers would be engaged by the department in addition to existing frontline staff for preventing and combating forest fires,” she said. The state disaster control room with toll-free number 1077 at the state level and 1070 at the district level were operational for reporting of the forest fire by the local community, she informed.

Dr. Savita said messages regarding forest fire had been shared with the members of the rapid forest fire fighting force, in which approximately 50,000 volunteers had already been registered. Awareness to the community was also conducted through Nukkar Nataks, songs, speeches and other activities at different locations in the state. Besides, a massive state-level awareness program was also conducted at 45 places from 10 to 17 March 2021

She said that the department had created forest fire lines and did control burning and also constructed water storage structures in the forest areas to combat forest fires. Additional multi-utility vehicles and water loaded tankers in 80 fire-sensitive ranges had been engaged for three months. She that matter regarding Standard Operating Systems (SOPs) for requisition of helicopter services for dousing the forest fires had been sent to the Government for approval. 

Feature Photo: Unsplash@Thematthoward

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Himachal Counts 108,578 Waterbirds of 96 Species This Year With Increase in Habitat

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Annual Bird Count in Himachal Pradesh 2021

Shimla-The habitat of migratory and resident water-birds in Himachal Pradesh has gradually improved, said Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania.

The annual water-bird count at Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first of February, 2021 and the exercise was conducted under restrained conditions due to the prevailing Avian Influenza outbreak in Pong Dam Lake as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic, he said.

The exercise was conducted by Wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh by deploying 57 staff members in 26 sections of the sanctuary for counting the water-dependent birds.

Total 108,578 birds of 96 species were counted during this year. Out of the total number, 101,431 of 51 species are water-dependent migratory birds and 6,433 of 29 species are water-dependent resident birds. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. The total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese, is 40,570.

The other species which have higher population count during this year are Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138). The species which find noticeable mention are Red Necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon etc. During the counting exercise, one Bar-headed Goose and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.

This year the Annual bird count exercise assumes significance, considering the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, the Minister expressed satisfaction over the timely and effective containment measures taken by Wildlife Wing to control and contain Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Archana Sharma and CCF Wildlife (North) Dharamshala Upasana Patial also participated and supervised the Annual Water Bird Count.

The total population of birds, as well as number of species, counted this year are marginally less as compared to last year, probably due to the impact of Avian Influenza outbreak which was first reported on 28th December 2020.

Although the total population of water birds declined during the peak of the Avian Influenza outbreak, there is a gradual increase in the total population of birds, the Minister informed.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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