‘Queen of Hills’ Shimla now needs fans, ACs

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Shimla : It’s advisable to wear half sleeve shirts, stay indoors in the afternoon and turn on the fan or the air-conditioner. No, you aren’t in some city in the Indian plains but in Shimla, which had earned the tag of ‘Queen of Hills’ for its cool climes.

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Architect Bhiwani Sood said the demand for installing fans and air-conditioners has increased over the years. “People are now asking to make provision of fans and air-conditioning ducts in new buildings as the mercury is sizzling above the normal range,” he said.

“Even in Shimla (situated at an altitude of 2,130 metres), installing cooling systems is now a must,” Sood told IANS. “Most people in lower areas of Shimla have now started preferring air-conditioners to fans.”

Akash Dubey, a tourist from Delhi, said: “We have come to Shimla to get relief from the scorching heat. But here too, during the day time we prefer to stay indoors, but there is no fan and air-conditioner.”

According to officials, global warming, deforestation and rise in pollution have rendered the Shimla hills remarkably warm.

The meteorological department here said the mean maximum and minimum temperature throughout the year has remained above average.

“In the past few years, the average maximum and minimum temperature have increased alarmingly. So, the hills are warming up fast, resulting in abnormal rise in temperatures,” said Manmohan Singh, director of the Shimla meteorological office.

“This season there is not only a rise in temperature but also lack of pre-monsoon showers which has prolonged the heat wave. In the past two weeks, the maximum temperature hovered between 29 degrees Celsius and 30.6 degrees in Shimla, which is quite unusual,” he said.

He said June 23 was the hottest day of the season in Shimla, with the mercury soaring to 30.6 degrees Celsius.

As per meteorological office data, the average maximum temperature of Shimla has increased from 20 degrees Celsius in May 2004 to 25 degrees in May this year. Popular tourist resorts like Narkanda, Kufri, Kasauli, Manali, Dharamsala, Palampur, Chamba and Dalhousie have also seen a rise in the maximum temperature.

M.R. Kaundal, a retired government employee who has been settled in Shimla since 1945, said that earlier temperature rarely crossed 25 degrees Celsius during summers.

“In the 1990s, the temperature rarely crossed 25 degrees Celsius during peak season. We used to carry half sleeve sweaters even in June. A drizzle makes the mercury plummet sharply. Now people are wearing half sleeve shirts and T-shirts from April onwards, which shows there are striking climatic changes,” he added.

Himachal Pradesh’s Environment Minister J.P. Nadda told IANS: “There has been a noticeable change in the climatic conditions in the state in the past 10-12 years. It’s a matter of concern.

“The hills are warming up faster, the snowline is declining and glaciers are receding. This year most districts have experienced a relatively warm and dry summer.”

He attributed the rise in temperatures to the use of tin roofs. “A large number of houses across the state now have tin roofs that absorb greater heat as compared to the previously used slate roofs. These too contribute to heat accumulation in the atmosphere,” the minister added.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])