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Hotting hill: High temps sour tourists' love affair with summer getaways

Dehradun: Lucknow businessman Shekhar Srivastava has just returned from Kedarnath after a trip to the shrine with his family. "It was a good experience," he said. "There were mandatory Covid and health checks along the way, a sensible thing to do, and it was smooth. Lekin garmi bahut thi. It was unusually hot."
He is not alone in his surprise and disappointment. The hills are hot these days. After the hottest March and April in 30 years, June is turning out to be another scorcher for the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. Mukteshwar in Nainital recorded a maximum temperature of 30.7 degrees Celsius on June 6, the highest recorded temperature on a June day in the hill town in seven years. Similarly, mercury in Mussoorie has been settling above normal for the past week, breaching 28 degrees twice in June. Last year, during this time, the highest was 25.5 degrees, while it was 26.5 degrees the year before. A similar pattern is on in the other Himalayan states. On June 6, Shimla recorded its hottest day at 29.4 degrees, 4-5 notches above normal. In Manali these days, it is hovering around 28-29 degrees, more than the normal range. Met experts say the hills registering such consistently high temperatures is "very unusual". According to hoteliers, it has resulted in a sudden decline in the tourist rush.
Bikram Singh, director at the Met Center in Dehradun, said, "This year, the hills in Uttarakhand are experiencing a prolonged period of hot days. Earlier, temperatures in hill towns would soar high only on a few isolated days. Mukteshwar was reeling under severe heatwave conditions when the temperature crossed the 30-degree mark. It was 6.5 degrees Celsius above normal."
Hoteliers in Mussoorie are a worried lot. Already, the town has seen tourist numbers dip in the first week of June, considered the peak season. "We have seen an unusual decline in tourism this month. Average hotel occupancy on weekdays has come down to nearly 60%. In the past few years (before the pandemic), June witnessed a heavy rush," said Sanjay Agarwal, president of Mussoorie Hotels Association. 
In Nainital, the maximum June temperature so far has been 29.8 degrees Celsius and the minimum 25.4, according to Hydromet, a local weather-monitoring system. "It was milder in 2021 when the maximum temperature in June was 25.5 degrees and minimum 16.1," said Dr. Manish Naja, atmospheric scientist, Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES).
Residents of the lake town said they are using fans for the first time, while tourists said they are unhappy with the heat.
In the other hill towns of Uttarakhand -Almora, Tehri, and Pithoragarh- day temperatures have been above 30 degrees Celsius for the last one week, which Met experts said is not a normal phenomenon. The past week has seen local people cope with temperatures of 34-35 degrees Almora, at least four to five degrees above normal.
Anand Sharma, weather expert, and former additional DG at Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) told, "There are two main reasons behind the prolonged high temperatures in the hills -severe rain deficit and anthropogenic pressure. Plus, excessive land use, land cover change, and concretization are creating heat islands."

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