Skating rink under threat

south Asia's only open-air natural skating rink in Shimla is under threat from pollution and environment degradation. Once sunless for up to three months in winters, this 78-year-old ice field allowed uninter-rupted skating. The 1998-99 skating season has shortened considerably as the tall deodar trees which keep sunlight out are not there any more. Digging work for a construction of a lift for the bus stop, has further worsened the situation.

This has resulted in heaps of debris sliding into the rink. "But the most serious environmental threat to the rink is the adjoining bus station. Every day, a large number of buses emit so much smoke that the temperature rises considerably. Despite repeated requests, the state government has not done anything about it,' says Anil Bhardwaj, executive member of the Shimla Ice Skating Club, which looks after the venue.

Bhardwaj warns that if the government goes ahead with its plans to construct high-rise buildings at the edge of the rink, it will create further problems for the rink. "The construction should be stopped before it is too late,' said Bhardawaj.