A historical ridge popularly known as Shimla’s Heart has developed fresh cracks, spurring the city’s municipal corporation to seek assistance from the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee to safeguard it from further damage.
During a recent inspection, a team of municipal corporation engineers detected fresh cracks in an underground water tank. “We are seeking the assistance of various agencies to address the problem,” municipal commissioner Rohit Jamwal said. The ridge ground was constructed way back in 1910, when Shimla was the summer capital of British India. The storage tank, which happens to be a stone structure, is not sufficiently reinforced.
Meanwhile, the pressure on the ground — the only open space in the area for VVIPs and politicians to hold rallies and public meetings — has only increased in recent times due to repeated surfacing with tar coal. One of the most recent events to be held on the ridge was the swearing-in ceremony of chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, a programme attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. “We have sought the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam’s advice and informed the government about the fresh cracks in the water tank,” said Jamwal.
The previous municipal corporation headed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was opposed to letting rallies congregate at Shimla’s Heart because it believed that the water tank and ground should be protected from damage. “We wanted large crowds to be disallowed from congregating at least on the portion of the ridge above the water tank,” said former Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan. “Even back then, we had apprised the previous Congress government (headed by chief minister Virbhadra Singh) of the cracks.”
The historical ridge, flanked by a catchment of the Sutlej river basin on one side and the Ganga basin on the other, connects the famous Lakkar Bazaar with Scandal Point on Mall Road. It houses two heritage buildings, a neo-Tudor style construction that doubles as Town Hall and an Anglican church dating back to 1857. The religious structure built in neo-Gothic style is one of the most famous landmarks of the city.
Cracks have also appeared on a portion of the ridge overlooking Gaiety Theatre and Town Hall. The area around Gaiety Theatre has been sinking for a while now, a phenomenon that wrecked over a dozen shops at the Tibetan market in 2010. It also poses a threat to the Town Hall, which is currently being renovated under a multi-crore project funded by the Asian Development Bank. The Gaiety Theatre was renovated around 10 years ago at a cost of Rs 14 crore.