Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Villages downhill of Shimla airport fear repeat of environmental tragedy

Solan: Once upon a time, the residents of Sayari and Kahla villages in Himachal’s Solan district grew all kinds of winter vegetables on their fertile land, irrigated by water from natural springs. Today, the springs are gone, the fields are barren, and the water has turned turbid.

The proposed expansion of the Shimla airport at Jubbarhatti has now revived fears of further ecological damage among the area’s residents, who are still suffering due to the environmental tragedy that followed its construction in the 1980s.

According to residents of villages lying downhill from the hilltop airport, heavy blasting and reckless dumping of debris when the airport was being built dealt a severe blow to the agricultural economy of the area — natural water springs that irrigated farms were destroyed, and the soil stopped supporting crops which grew in abundance earlier. The most devastating effect of the project, residents said, is the long-term contamination of water in the area, which has permanently turned either reddish or milky white.
“It (agriculture) is over. Nothing grows here anymore. We grew all types of winter vegetables here before the 80s. This was a very fertile area,” said 74-year-old Ram Lal from Kot village.
“When we attempted to use this water for growing potatoes and tomatoes, they turned a strange bluish colour. Now, nobody here even washes hands with this water as it’s sticky. Vegetables don’t grow. Before this destruction, agriculture flourished in this valley throughout the year and any other job was unheard of, as this was a land of plenty. Now, people have been forced to find other jobs,” said Sumitra Jaswal, 67, another resident.
12/02/20 Gagandeep Singh Dhillon/Indian Express
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