Saturday, December 27, 2008

The valleys of delicious apples in Himacahal Pradesh

A full day drive to Thanedar

Hidden away in the Shimla hills, Kotgarh is famous for its apple orchards but very few knows about the inspiring feature that makes an excellent spring-summer destination.
Close to Narkanda, the hill range known as Kotgarh is just 16 kilometers from National highway that heads into the valley through Kumarsain, Rampur and Kinnaur and towards the Indo-Tibetan border. A branching spur breaking out from the Hatu peak Range that is splited by the fault line carved by the Satluj river, deep in the valley, makes up for what is known as the Kotgarh region.
Hatu peak can be accessed by a narrow motorable road from Narkanda that is functional during the summer months. Alternatively, the 8 kilometer of trek through dense pine, spruce and oak forests are a better option for reaching the mountain top that also mark the tree line of the Himalayan terrain. The view from Hatu Peak is breathtaking. Besides the perennially snow capped chain of the greater Himalayan ranges, very few peaks in the vicinity match the grandeur on display from here. The rarified air and the clouds gliding by, give Hatu peak a surrealistic setting. In early May, hundred of people from near and far villages trek it to the mountain top to savor of a spring fair held at Hatu.
Pre-dating the advent of British settlers in the early part of the 19th century, Kotgarh was overrun by Gorkha warriors. These hardy warriors are said to have established a fort on Hatu peak to maintain suzerainty over the surrounding territory which they held by force. Today, no traces of the fort can be seen as nature has reclaimed the remnants.
An 8 kilometer drive from Narkanda on the road to Thanedhar takes you to a ridge-top lake, popularly known as Tani jubbar, ‘a meadow within a Lake.’ This is a tranquil point, offering solace. A temple in a pahari architectural style sanctifies the lake as a holy one. The enclosing deodar forest keeps the spot shaded and hidden away. Trans-continental migratory birds sometimes do spot the water body and there have been some occasions when some of them have rested by a week or more during the winters.
On the last day of May, a spring festival held at Tani jubbar and this is a good occasion to witness local celebration and gaiety. The local deity, carried in a palanquin, with believers dancing to drum beats is integral to this local fair held amidst scenic settings.
Further on the road beyond Tani jubbar is Thanedhar which used to be the market centre of Kotgarh till it burnt down in the mid 1970’s. Long before this, during British rule, it was a major transition station for those heading into or out of Tibet.
‘Barubag’ is the ridge top at Thanedhar. This was where the American Quaker missionary, Samuel Evans Stokes chose to settle down. He bought the property from an English lady, married a local girl, converted to Hinduism and built Harmony Hall, the name he gave to the house that still stands on the spot. At a little distance from his house, Stokes built a temple, which perhaps is one of its own kinds in the whole of north India. The Gita Temple that Stokes built does not have ant idol protected in its sancto-sanctorum. In place of this, there is a sacred fire place (Havan Kund), where amidst the chanting of mantras, a sacred fire was lit where Stokes attended the ceremony religiously every morning.
The temple and Harmony Hall still mark the presence of the man who introduced commercial growing of apples to the hills. In less than a hundred years, apple as a cash crop has become so successful that it gives a livelihood to over a million people and churn up an economy of Rs 1,500 crore, each year. A summer fair held in mid-June ia a good time to be around Thanedhar.
Other than the Hatu peak, Tani jubbar and Barubag there is the locality of Kotgarh village, lower down in the hills, from where the whole area derives its name.
About two hundred years ago, the first British soldiers who came to fight the Gurkha occupation in the hills, converted Kotgarh village into cantonment. Locally the place till date is known as Chavani (cantonment). Church ta Kotgarh
Like every civilization, the invading soldiers carried their religion and gods along. So A church was established and this 1841 structure is still exist. Near Kotgarh village is the village of Melan, where temple dedicated to Chattar Mukh, the presiding deity of Kotgarh is housed.
Apples have substantially changed life patterns and made life in the hills sustainable. Prior to introduction of this cash crop, it was the fertile irrigated fields on the bank of the river satluj, deep in the valley, that provided the bread and butter for the most of residents. The higher altitudes provide only malginal crops and were used as grazing lands for sheep and cattle in the summer months. A trek or a drive into the valley provides glimpses of variant crop patterns thriving in temperate to tropical climatic zones. Famous for not having introduced commercial growing of fruits into the hills, the unique dress that the Kotgarh women wears ‘raista’, a full length skirt like garment with a attached blouse which has become trademark of Himachali women.

Friday, December 26, 2008

History of water supply for Shimla
The history of the water supply in Simla is extremely interesting, firstly, because it relates to great engineering feats, and secondly, because water vitally concern the health and existence of the population of the town. Roughly speaking the water supply has cost to the date about 54 lakh rupees. Prior to 1880 Simla depended partly on local ‘baolies’ (springs), and partly on the reservoir fed by the water issuing from two tunnels bored a short distance into Jakhoo on either side of the Combermere bridge ravine.
In 1880 the first serious attempt was made to tackle the water problem, when some 15,000 acres of land was accuired on the south of Mahasu ridge from the Rana of Koti. This was the beginning of the now extensive Catchment area, and a 6" pipeline eleven miles in length was laid to deliver water in the new reservoirs at the church and Sanjoli and this pipe gave and still give, a discharge of 60,000 gallons per day during the hot weather.
In 1893 the catchment area was extended to the old toll-bar on the Mashobra road, and two stem engines were installed at Cherot Nullah, 1,300 feet below the Hindustan Tibet road and the supply increased about 150,000 gallons daily.
This again proved insufficient, so in 1899 a second gravitation pipe line, four miles in length, was constructed to tap at the lower level the same stream as the pipe laid in 1880.
This added 150,000 gallons daily to the supply available for the pumping at Cherot where a third stem pumping engine was installed, and a large storage reservoir holding 2 and a half million gallons was built at Seog in the Catchment area forest.
Then came the railway and increasing requirements in connection with the new sewage works and the demand again rose above the supply, and 1913 saw the installation under the able direction of Captain B.C. Battye R.E.L., of the Chaba electricity generation station on the Sutlej and the Chair pumping station on the ravine below Fagu and Shali peak.
The capacity of Chair station is 300,000 gallons lifted by ram pumps driven by the electric motors to a height of 3,000 feet, to the tank above Hindustan-Tibet road about 9 miles from Shimla. From this tank the water run by gravitation in 6" and 7" mains via Kufri and Charabra. Into the Catchment area to Dhali, and there the whole of the water from the Chair, Cherot and the Catchment area is filtered in slow sand filters and then goes on in 3 pipes of various sizes to Sanjouli.
In 1941 advantage was taken of the electricity to install at Cherot a turbine pump driven by an electric motor, and from this date it was possible to dispense with the services of number of wood cutters and coolies who had hitherto provided fuel for the boilers working the steam pumps. The presence of this large body of workmen in the Catchment area had always been objected to by the sanitary authorities.
It was then hoped that the Chair extension would suffice for the needs of the station for some years, but the new generation arose which demanded considerably more comfort and convenience.
Visitors at hotels clamored for English baths and sanitation, Government offices were no longer satisfied with primitive sanitary methods, and the owners and the tenants of the houses who had previously been content with the one tap in the compound, wanted water laid on to the bathrooms, kitchens and pantry. In additions to these demands the Municipal Committee encouraged the builders of the new houses to install sanitary fittings, and commenced replacing obsolete Municipal latrines with those of the modern type.
However, in 1919 a definite scheme was placed before the local government for pumping from the Guma on the Nauti River 4,000 feet below Mashobra.
In 1920 Mr. A.F. Henderson was placed on special duty to prepare the Guma Pumping Project in detail, and was sanctioned in 1922, and completed at the end of 1924. at Guma there are two electricity driven ram pumps, each capable of lifting 35,000 gallon per hour, to the reservoir on the ‘Craignanao’ estate, now the property of the United Service Club, at the height of 4,000 feet above Guma. This lift is reputed to be the highest for water works purposes in the world, and the pressure on the pumps there is over quarter of a ton per square inch. The rising mains are of steel, varying in thickness from an half an inch at Guma to quarter inch at Craignano. At Guma the water passes through settling tanks and then after treatment with alum to coagulating tanks and finally to Paterson filters, but as a second safeguard the water is treated at ‘Craignano’ an 18-inch main leads to the reservoir at Mashobra and thence a 12-inch main takes the water to Sanjouli reservoir.
From this brief description it will be gathered that the Guma scheme is unique in the history of waterworks undertakings, and after he has designed it the execution was also entrusted to Mr. Henderson who was assisted by Mr. Main.
The distribution system in Shimla is intricate, for not only the pressure in the mains be reduced at intervals, but arrangements also exists through which pressure may be augmented in case of fire, and the whole system is controlled by an elaborate system of recording meters and valves in order that leakage may be readily detected. All houses connections are metered, and probably Shimla is the only town in India, where this wise policy has been consistently pursued by the Municipal Committee.