Should there be roads in Spiti?

We left Delhi earlier this week, after having seen Dibakar Banarjee’s latest film Shanghai. A film that deals with the development issue. I’, not going to review to film here, rather I’d like to flesh out the polemic.

As we traveled through the vast inhabited expanses of Spiti on what can only be called primitive roads( let alone paved roads, there isn’t even a flat track here, its just a path of rubble, ice, streams and what not that has been traversed for ages) with the memory of Shanghai still fresh in our minds, I kept wondering if “development” is actually good thing?

Take the roads in Spiti for instance, surely better roads, will improve the quality of life of the few people that manage to survive in these harsh conditions. They would have better access to medical facilities, improved trade opportunities, roads will bring employment, roads will lead to an increase in settlements, schools would be built and so on.

Not just the locals but the tourists and travelers alike will benefit too, it would be a much quicker and comfortable ride. The increase in tourism will again benefit the locals.
On the flip-side, all this developmental activity, will surely have an impact on the ecology & the climate of Spiti. Mining, lumbering, dam building and other destructive activities will follow. Pollution can’t be far behind when hordes of Indian tourists begin to descend upon Spiti.

The whole charm of Spiti is that it is so raw, so virgin, so pristine. It is a tough place and may be its good that not everyone can come down here.

I haven’t yet been able to make my mind up, I don’t know if the roads should reach Spiti soon. They will eventually, I just hope I’ll be able to go back a few more times before this place changes. Whether this change is for better or for worse only time will tell.

-Akshay

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