Marooned in November snow in Himachal’s Lahaul valley

Keylong (Himachal Pradesh), Nov 16 ( It’s just November and the tribals in this Himachal Pradesh town in the Lahaul valley have been cut off from the rest of the world. Heavy snowfall high up the Himalayan slopes Nov 9 has closed the road connectivity to Keylong, the district headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti.

The town, located at an altitude of 3,156 metres (10,354 feet), lies on the Manali-Leh National Highway-21, some 450 km from state capital Shimla.

“Keylong has been cut off from the rest of the world after the season’s first heavy snowfall. The entire Lahaul valley can’t be accessed by road, making life really tough,” Sher Singh, public relations officer of Lahaul and Spiti district, told Inditop.

He said the Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), the gateway to the Lahaul valley, closed to traffic Nov 9.

“The only road link to the Lahaul valley through the Rohtang Pass (in Kullu district) has been closed to traffic since Nov 9. Snow-clearing operation is on but frequent change in climatic conditions is hampering the work,” said S.K. Doon of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), a government agency that maintains the Manali-Leh highway that passes through the Rohtang Pass.

“If the weather permits, the Rohtang Pass would be reopened for traffic in one or two days,” he said.

The PRO last month issued an advisory to the motorists to avoid travelling on the 475-km Manali-Leh highway after Oct 31 as chances of untimely snowfall on the highway are high.

The meteorological office in Shimla said the Rohtang Pass has witnessed heavy snowfall in the past few days.

“The Rohtang Pass has recorded three to four feet snow,” meteorological office director Manmohan Singh said.

According to him, the cold wave intensified all of a sudden in the state due to cyclonic rainfall on the southern and western coasts.

“In the previous years, the state usually experienced moderate snowfall in the high hills during this period. This time the cold wave intensified suddenly due to cyclonic rainfall on the southern and western coasts. Keylong is the coldest human habitation in the state, where the temperature plummeted to minus 4 degrees Celsius Friday,” he said.

Parkash Singh, a school teacher posted in this town, said: “We are literally shivering in the cold. Snow and chilling breeze has brought life to a grinding halt. Generally, we start storing ration and wood for the winter after the middle of November. This winter we were literally caught off guard.”

Meanwhile, the state government has decided to install Chinese LPG gas heaters this winter in its administrative offices located in Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts.

“The gas heaters would replace earthen coal firepots,” Himachal Pradesh Civil Supplies Corporation managing director Daljeet Singh Dogra said.

The climatic conditions of Lahaul and Spiti are harsh as much of the land falls under a cold desert where temperature plummets to as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius.