Chanshal Pass, Himachal Pradesh, India, 18 December 2016, 1130 hours:
As we reached Chanshal Pass, the skies were clearer than half an hour ago. Then in an instance, we were astounded to see a big cloud of smoke rising off in the distance due to a fire in the jungle. As it hadn’t rained and there was still no sign of snow even with half of December over, we were able to sight a lot of forest fires. Everything looked completely dry, and as all the already dried leaves from trees collect on the ground with the dry grass, it all acts as the perfect fuel for forest fires. While most of the fires are because of human negligence, some occur naturally as well.
But the problem I find is that the weather conditions have changed so much that it rains and snows very less nowadays. The locals at Dodra and Kwar informed me that earlier the snow cover used to be 6 – 7 feet deep whereas now it has drastically reduced to just 1 and a half feet. Even when I used to travel to Chamba, the Dhauladhar ranges visible from near Kangra used to be covered with snow throughout the year, irrespective of the prevailing season; nowadays I can see the underlying mountain faces due to reduced snow cover.
Global warming is taking its toll and that too at a much wider scale and pace as compared to what has been predicted – if needful steps are not taken soon, future generations will have to suffer the consequences.
As we move across the Chanshal Pass, a magnificent view of the valley towards Rohru reveals itself and cheers us up a little.