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Which are Canada’s top five happiest cities?


The pursuit of happiness is what drives people to work hard, travel, spend time with loved ones, engage in variety of hobbies and do other things. One of the major objectives of every person’s life is to stay happy. While some say that happiness is a state of mind, it’s not just that. Several factors influence one’s happiness. The factors that affect happiness can be economic, social, political and environmental too. Where one resides in a particular country can also be a factor in the level of one’s happiness.

Image for representation(Getty Images)
Image for representation(Getty Images)

Canada which is the second largest country in the world and home to almost 40 million people, ranked 14th in the World Happiness Index 2023. One question which intrigues people is in such a big country which province ranks the highest in terms of happiness.

According to a recent report by cicnews.com citing Point2, a real estate website that analyses national housing trends, Ontario is home to the top five happiest cities in Canada. The five happiest cities are Caledon, Milton, Halton Hills, Clarington, and Burlington. Interestingly, all the five cities happen to be in the Southern part of Ontario.

The study was done using 30 metrics graded on a 100-point scale. The metrics were classified into four categories.

  • Economy and real estate
  • Health and well-being
  • Community and environment
  • Location and demographics

The report also highlights the locations which fared best in each of the categories separately.

Economy and real estate

In this category, Terrebonne, Blainville, and Repentigny which are town in the Quebec region, ranked the highest for happiness. The three towns were found to have the lowest poverty rates among the cities studied.

Health and well-being

Cities Granby, Saint-Hyacinthe, Lévis, Québec City, Drummondville and Trois-Rivières in Quebec ranked the highest for happiness through health and well-being.

Community and environment

For people who find happinees through community and environment, St John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador ranked the highest in Canada.

Location and demographics

For people who find happiness at places where crime rates are lowest, Milton, Halton Hills, Burlington and Oakville ON are top ranked cities in Canada.

Under demographics, marital status was considered as a factor. It was found that at 7.5%, Milton has the lowest rates of divorce in Canada.

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Can Germany’s tourism industry become climate neutral?


In the northern German town of Ueckermünde, the Haffhus hotel and spa is a model among sustainability leaders in the tourism industry. The establishment derives its heating, cooling and electricity entirely from renewable sources — and even produces all its own energy. In 2018, the hotel cut its connection to the public power grid and has been self-sufficient ever since, says Dirk Klein, sustainability manager of the Haffhus.

How can tourism contribute to climate neutrality?(Jens Büttner/dpa/picture alliance)
How can tourism contribute to climate neutrality?(Jens Büttner/dpa/picture alliance)

Germany must be greenhouse gas neutral by 2045

Yet the entire tourism industry will have to make similar changes by 2045. According to the Climate Protection Act, Germany must then be greenhouse gas neutral by this date. This means there must be a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the removal of such gasses from the atmosphere. Then, by 2050, Germany aims to go even further and achieve a negative emissions balance.

According to Germany’s Federal Statistical Office, the tourism industry accounts for only 2.6% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, the travel sector must also do its part to reach the target. The Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry, for example, recently stated that it is aware that the tourism industry has to approach the issue of climate protection and sustainability differently than it has in the past.

Indeed, achieving climate neutrality poses a major challenge, says Heinz-Dieter Quack, professor at the Institute for Tourism and Regional Research at Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in the German city of Salzgitter. “Especially because tourism involves traveling.”Going to and from a vacation destination is usually what creates the majority of a tourist’s CO2 emissions. Since there’s unlikely to be climate-neutral air travel anytime soon, vacationers have to find alternatives, says Quack — like traveling by bus and train instead of plane.

Circular economy helps reduce emissions

“Transportation is the obvious,” says Quack. “But at the end, it’s also about how people behave at the destination.” This is where the circular economy can help reduce emissions. The industry has to consider the food and products guests consume at hotels and restaurants and look at how they are procured; whether or not they are imported or produced regionally and under what conditions. The sustainability of building materials used to create new accommodations is another area that can be examined. Such aspects would have a direct impact on CO2 emissions.

Quack is unsure whether traveler’s decisions and those of individual hotels and restaurants will be enough: “I cannot say to what extent we will be climate neutral by 2045.” According to a report by the German government’s Competence Center for Tourism, of which Quack is director, “a detailed and agreed-upon national strategy for climate protection and sustainability in tourism is lacking.” One of the reasons for this, Quack says, is that each German state is responsible for drawing up its own rules and regulations.

Some CO2 emissions will remain

Harald Zeiss, a professor at the Harz University of Applied Sciences in Wernigerode whose research focuses on sustainability in tourism, points out that the industry consists of many different sectors and is therefore difficult to treat as a single entity. “Also, requirements imposed by the government quickly lead to competitive disadvantages,” points out the travel expert. Instead, he calls for an international sustainability strategy.

Marion Schuster of the company Fokus Zukunft, which develops sustainability strategies and makes greenhouse gas inventories for hotels, knows what the CO2 footprint of the average hotel guest consists of. Production and transportation of food accounted for the bulk of emissions, followed by heating and laundry. A hotel can hardly be 100% carbon neutral, says Schuster. “There will always be a remaining value.” A few years ago, the German Hotel and Restaurant Association determined that between 17 and 50 kilograms of CO2 are produced per guest per overnight stay, depending on the hotel’s star category.

Meat from the hotel’s farm

Andrea Fend and her family have already significantly reduced their hotel’s CO2 emissions. They run the Moor & Mehr spa hotel in Bad Kohlgrub in the Ammergau Alps in Bavaria — and have made it almost entirely climate-neutral. Their establishment uses a wood chip heating system and a photovoltaic system which converts thermal energy into electricity.

The organic meat they serve comes from the hotel’s own farm, while all other food products are purchased from local producers as much as possible. Yet despite such efforts, 7.53 kilograms of CO2 are still produced per guest per day. To ensure that the carbon footprint of guests doesn’t get any bigger, they’re given a guest pass by the regional tourism association which allows them to travel for free on buses in the area.

Such measures to support public transportation are but a dream up in northern Germany at the Haffhus hotel in Ueckermünde. “Here, public transport stops operating completely during the school holidays,” says Dirk Klein. This means travelers’ CO2 footprint skyrockets, since many drive cars around. “Traffic is the big problem. We can make the accommodations as sustainable as we want: Unless something fundamental happens, we won’t reach the goal of climate neutrality.”

This article was translated from German.

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Travelling with kids: Summer travel tips to keep mothers stress-free


As summer approaches, mothers everywhere gear up for the joys and challenges of travelling with their children. Travelling offers children a valuable opportunity to discover, learn, and develop. Every parent dreams of nurturing a curious and adventurous spirit in their little ones. From planning and packing to keeping everyone entertained and safe, summer travel with kids requires some extra preparation. By following these tips, mothers can minimise stress levels and create unforgettable memories while embarking on exciting adventures with their little adventurers. Whether you’re embarking on a road trip, heading to the beach, or exploring new cities, let us guide you in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable summer travel experience for mothers and their little ones. (Also read: Don’t let age hold you back: Tips for safe and enjoyable summer travel experience for older adults )

From planning and packing to keeping everyone entertained and safe, summer travel with kids requires some extra preparation. (Freepik )
From planning and packing to keeping everyone entertained and safe, summer travel with kids requires some extra preparation. (Freepik )

Summer travel tips for mothers

Dr. Vanshika Gupta Adukia, Pregnancy/Childbirth expert and lactation specialist and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, Founder of Therhappy, shared with HT Lifestyle, some valuable tips and insights to help mothers make the most of their summer travel.

1. Opt for fewer travel halts and better connections

Nothing like having to spend excruciatingly long hours with a toddler, in between airports or railway stations. Try and choose a destination with minimum connections and the shortest layovers. Even if that means having to spend a few extra bucks in the bargain. Having to deal with a cranky exhausted toddler would be nerve-wracking as compared to marginally stretching that holiday budget.

2. Keep small toys and engaging activities for the journey

While it’s true that toddlers can have the most amount of fun with the most unexpected things around them, keep smaller new toys and activities for the journey. This will help them stay engrossed and occupied as compared to the older games/toys that they are used to in their regular routine. Carry that favourite lovey, a suction fidget spinner that would glue itself to the window, simple sticker activities, magnetic mini toys like fish and rod, and storybooks to keep them busy with storytime. While it may sound overwhelming but a different activity/toy for every hour might sometimes save you toddler tantrums.

3. Carry ample wipes, diapers and baby clothes

While packing light with a toddler is every mother’s biggest packing nightmare, it goes without saying that baby wipes, diapers and extra clothes will be available in any part of the world except in an aeroplane, on a bus or on a train! Hence it is crucial to have some extra handy than be in a situation where you none left with a messy toddler. Plus, long travel hours or fluctuating altitudes can play it’s part in their little bodies, causing them to pee and poop much more during the aircraft hours than ever on land.

4. Carry noise-cancellation headphones

Sleeping on the move is not every adult’s cup of tea, so expecting toddlers to easily dose off while travelling could sometimes mean asking for too much. Usually, noisy surroundings could be a reason for them not falling asleep. Whether in the middle of your journey or while sightseeing in a new city, Noise-cancelling headphones could just be the need of the hour in such scenarios, helping cut out all that buzz and providing the toddler with the calming realm that they might need.

5. Dress them in layers, while ditching the shoe laces

Whether it’s dealing with the varying temperature or the drastic climatic change. Dressing in layers would make it easier to quickly slip on or slip off those pieces of tiny clothing, keeping your infant comfortable all along. Even better to pick clothes that have no buttons, no zippers or no nasty tie-ups. Avoiding shoe laces that could need you to keep an eye on them and stop often to just help your tiny one tie them in order to prevent a fall.

6. Give them that window seat

The window seat will allow them to stay occupied while watching the view outside. The window seat can also give them that extra space to move around slightly more without coming in anybody’s way. Toddlers are best kept away from the aisle for everyone’s safety.

7. Carry your own water bottle and an empty box

Travel can cause every child’s routine to go out of the window. Meal timings could be haywire and if you’re on the move meals may not be the easiest of hours with your child. Keeping an empty box handy will allow you to pack some food for the child on the go, so that the same can be offered to the little one according to their hunger cues, allowing you to be flexible with them while enjoying your time outdoors.

8. Heat protection gear is a must

Heat can cause the most energetic child to feel cranky and famished. Therefore, ensure you carry ample sunblock, hydrate them well and use caps and sunglasses to keep them covered under the scorching sun to allow for your outdoor times to be stress-free and fun.

If feasible, try planning for indoor activities during peak hours of the sun being overhead. Avoid moving straight into the sun after an extremely heavy meal as often this can cause headaches and nausea.

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Vistara launches non-stop Mumbai-London flight, will be operated 5 times a week


PTI | | Posted by Zarafshan Shiraz, Mumbai

Full-service carrier Vistara on Thursday inaugurated its non-stop flights between Mumbai and London Heathrow Airport.

Vistara launches non-stop Mumbai-London flight, will be operated 5 times a week (HT Photo)
Vistara launches non-stop Mumbai-London flight, will be operated 5 times a week (HT Photo)

The flight on the new route will be operated five times a week with a Boeing 787 (Dreamliner) aircraft, the airline said in a statement.

Vistara, a 51:49 joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, is set to be merged with Air India, which is also now owned by the Mumbai-based salt-to-steel conglomerate.

“This new route, at convenient departure and arrival timings, is in line with our continued efforts towards offering more flexibility and ease to our customers,” said Vinod Kannan, Chief Executive Officer at Vistara, said.

Mumbai-London route is a historically significant route for trade, business and leisure alike, Kanan said, adding that while Mumbai is the financial capital of India, London holds critical importance in the global financial world and is a popular destination for travel and tourism from India.

The airline currently has a fleet of 61 aircraft, including 46 Airbus A320neo, 10 Airbus A321, 1 Boeing 737-800NG and 4 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and has flown more than 45 million customers since starting operations in January 2015.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Indonesia pushes ecotourism to boost mangrove restoration


Tourists in Indonesia are discovering the benefits of mangroves as the archipelago pushes to replant or conserve carbon-rich coastal areas that have been decimated by human activity.

Indonesia pushes ecotourism to boost mangrove restoration (REUTERS/Tommy Ardiansyah)
Indonesia pushes ecotourism to boost mangrove restoration (REUTERS/Tommy Ardiansyah)

Connie Sihombing, a 50-year-old resident of Jakarta, does not mind that she can hear traffic or planes flying above as she paddles her kayak through murky waters and the arching roots of mangrove trees.

“I’ve travelled far, yet I had no idea that close to home lies this fascinating and beautiful park,” she said, referring to a protected mangrove forest along the northern coast of the capital.

Mangroves in Indonesia, a country of more than 17,000 islands and miles of shoreline, have dwindled to about 4.1 million hectares (10.1 million acres) as urban development or seafood farming replaces what is a natural defence against rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion.

Last year alone, the country lost 700,000 hectares of mangroves, according to Indonesia’s Mangrove and Peatlands Restoration Agency (BRGM).

Indonesia hopes that alongside state efforts, ‘ecotourism’ that involves people exploring, planting, and caring for the forests will help them understand their importance as carbon stores and biodiversity hotspots.

“A lot of people and businesses have these mangrove forests levelled down and then build a tourist spot above it by piling sand to make artificial beaches. That contradicts nature preservation,” said Muhammad Saleh Alatas, owner of The Mangrove Paddling Centre, which organises tours in the mangroves of Jakarta.

The 98-hectare Angke Kapuk Nature Reserve Park where the tours operate is but a tiny part of what environmental experts say the world needs to reverse the damage that has been wrought on mangroves and other wetlands.

While government funding has risen in the past five years, support from private institutions and non-governmental organisations is still needed, said Nusantara Nature Conservation Agency director Muhammad Ilman.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Benefits of spiritual travel: Rejuvenating mind and soul through journeys of inner discovery


Travel has long been recognized as a highly effective method for revitalizing the mind and spirit. Recently, there has been a notable surge in the popularity of spiritual travel, particularly following the covid-19 pandemic. People worldwide have experienced a significant shift towards spirituality, engaging in practices such as meditation, and yoga, and fostering a deep connection between their mind, body, and soul. Embarking on a journey of spiritual travel can be a transformative experience, offering a profound connection to oneself and the world around us. Beyond the typical tourist destinations, spiritual travel takes us on a deeper exploration of sacred sites, ancient traditions, and inner growth. From pilgrimages to serene retreats, these journeys offer several benefits. (Also read: Summer travel bucket list: 10 dreamy Indian destinations you can’t miss )

Embarking on a journey of spiritual travel can be a transformative experience, offering a profound connection to oneself and the world around us. (Unsplash)
Embarking on a journey of spiritual travel can be a transformative experience, offering a profound connection to oneself and the world around us. (Unsplash)

Benefits of spiritual travel

“The ‘going inward’ has become a significant framework. Holy sites, temples, ashrams and meditation centres have become powerful catalysts for spiritual growth; but why this shift? One significant advantage of spiritual travel is the opportunity for self-reflection, allowing individuals to detach from the cacophony and contemplate their thoughts and behaviours. Sacred destinations are creating a space where we can genuinely acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, offering a valuable window for personal introspection,” says, Dr Vikas Katoch, Founder, Adotrip. He further shared with HT Lifestyle, some amazing benefits of spiritual travel.

1. Discovering life’s purpose

Talking about India’s iconic religious destinations like Kedarnath, Amarnath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri, Vaishno Devi Shrine, Golden Temple, Ajmer Sharif and Bodh Gaya, are experiencing an extraordinary surge in travel, attracting both national and international visitors. These revered sites have emerged as transformative spaces, enabling individuals to regain their focus and discover their life’s purpose. Travellers embarking on these spiritual journeys have reported incredible boosts in their thought processes, energy levels, and overall motivation.

2. Improve mental health and overall well-being

Over the past two years, particularly in the post-covid era, spiritual travel has emerged as a powerful remedy for enhancing mental well-being and alleviating anxiety. Individuals grappling with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, and chronic stress have experienced a remarkable resurgence in their lives through visits to yoga centres and spiritual retreats. Moreover, those burdened with chronic health conditions like inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more have discovered notable improvements in their health markers.

3. Reconnecting with our roots

The current era showcases a significant shift in the perception of spirituality, extending its influence beyond the older generation. Nowadays, individuals aged 25-45 are increasingly embracing spiritual practices and actively encouraging their families and children to explore our diverse religious heritage. This emerging trend holds great potential for the travel industry, as it offers a valuable opportunity to reconnect with our cultural origin and relive cherished childhood memories of mythological stories and religious texts.

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Beyond biryani: taking the lid off Telangana’s culinary treasure


The struggle for separate Telangana was not just about jobs and water. It was also about its culture, its history, its art, and its food. Food in Hyderabad meant biryani, haleem, tomato cut, khichidi khatta and a host of other delicacies. But it was during the long struggle for the State that the food from the region got a platform. One of the big events during the struggle was a Telangana Food Festival hosted in March 2007 that jolted the palate of Hyderabad — Vanta varpu where food cooked publicly was also part of the agitation.

Nine years later, food from Telangana is mainstream. But drive out of Hyderabad and you get a full range of food from Telangana that is a smorgasbord of flavours, textures, and presentation that don’t fit a label. One of the earthy delights is dining with local people. In Siddipet, fresh toddy is served with spicy chicken curry. There is an option to have Susheela. Sush what, you ask? A unique dish enjoyed at kallu compounds (toddy joints), Susheela is nothing but puffed rice (muri/murmura), served with chicken curry. Eating rice is too routine and to add a crunch to the bite while sipping toddy, locals replace it with puffed rice. This Susheela is not to be confused with the traditional Maharashtrian Susheela, also made with puffed rice. 

Then there’s toddy. Locally known as kallu, it is the fresh sap from palm trees with a slight intoxicating effect. It is a popular drink during summer. When consumed within a few hours of being tapped, it is sweet. In Telangana, drinking toddy in summer is like a tradition. In many houses that procure the drink, guests are usually offered toddy and not tea. Chicken cooked with toddy called kallu chicken is must-have dish for visitors and gourmands to the region.

When chef Garima Arora, the first Indian female chef to be awarded a Michelin star, was in Telangana just before the COVID-19 lockdown, she said she was surprised at the range of indigenous variety and the gastronomic uniqueness. 

Chef Sudhakar Rao, director/principal of Culinary Academy of India (affiliated to Osmania University) says he felt the need to document the cuisine of Telangana whose uniqueness had never been discussed commercially. “Just like the way food varies from home to home, the style of cooking varies from region to region. Food of Telangana is sans the need for purees, fine pastes and all that jazz. It won’t be wrong to say that Telangana cuisine follows the farm-to-table concept as a norm,” the chef points out.

“That is why, in many Telangana homes, the use of seasonal greens with lentils like yellow dal and Bengal gram is common,” he adds.

Must-try Telangana dishes

Golichina Mamsam: A fried mutton dish that is as fiery as it gets. This is, however, not deep-fried. The dish is made by allowing lamb meat-on-the-bone cook in its own juices along with the usual dry spices. What makes it fiery is the use of green chillies and red chilli powder. This is usually had with rice or roti. A glass of majjiga to wash down the fieriness is ideal. 

Sarva pindi and Sakinalu:Sarva pindi is a popular pancake-like preparation made with rice flour and chana dal, along with ginger-garlic paste, chillies and curry leaves.  It is a breakfast staple in rural areas. Sakinalu, on the other hand, is a dry snack made of rice flour, carom and sesame seeds. It is similar to muruku but not as crunchy.

Pachhi pulusu: It is said that once you have pachhi pulusu, you have tasted a bit of Telangana cuisine. And once you make pachhi pulusu at home, you become a ‘local’. Pachhi pulusu is like rasam, where nothing is cooked, except the tempering that goes into it. It is made from runny tamarind extract seasoned with salt, lots of green chilies, and finely chopped onions.  It is a must-have during summer in many homes. 

Bagara annam: This one is much like masala rice. It is a slightly spicy pulao version that is served with curries like Ooru kodi koora (spicy chicken curry), dalcha (veg and non-veg), chammagadda pulusu, vankaya tomato koora (brinjal tomato curry)

Meat specialities: Telangana non-veg dishes that should be tried are punti kura maamsam (gongura leaf mutton curry) soya koora karjam (liver curry with dil leaves) Anakapur kodi koora (chicken curry made with Ankapur black chicken), chickudukaya maamsam (mutton made with broad bean seeds) and keema muttila koora (keema balls curry). Chef Sudhakar says “most of these curries are fiery hot and flavourful”.

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Gangtok: The ultimate summer getaway destination for cool and memorable vacations


Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim state in north-eastern India, is a hidden gem and the coolest destination for a summer vacation. Nestled in the lap of the mighty Himalayas, this enchanting city offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and tranquillity that will leave you mesmerized. When it comes to exploring Gangtok, there are several must-visit places that should be on your itinerary. One such place is Tsomgo Lake, located at a breathtaking altitude of 12,400 feet. This high-altitude lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, changes its colours with the seasons, making it a sight to behold. Legend has it that Buddhist monks used to study the lake’s colour to predict the future.

Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim state in north-eastern India, is a hidden gem and the coolest destination for a summer vacation.(Unsplash)
Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim state in north-eastern India, is a hidden gem and the coolest destination for a summer vacation.(Unsplash)

Another must-visit place is the Nathula Pass, part of the ancient Silk Road connecting India and Tibet. This mountain pass offers stunning panoramic views and an adventurous drive through steep and slippery slopes. It is best to visit Nathula Pass during the summer and autumn when the weather is pleasant, and the route is accessible.

For a spiritual experience, visit the Ranka Monastery amidst dense forests. This serene sanctuary offers breathtaking views of the Kanchenjunga range and provides an opportunity to interact with Buddhist monks. The tranquil atmosphere of the monastery provides a peaceful escape from the bustling city life.

Nature lovers should not miss the Himalayan Zoological Park, the first zoo in Sikkim. Unlike traditional zoos, this park houses animals in open pens that mimic their natural habitats. Here, you can spot rare and exotic species like snow leopards, red pandas, and Himalayan black bears. The zoo also offers a splendid view of Mount Kanchenjunga, adding to the overall experience.

If you’re interested in learning about Tibetan culture and history, a visit to the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is a must. This institute houses an extensive collection of Tibetan artefacts, manuscripts, and literature. It provides a glimpse into the fascinating Tibetan culture and its deep-rooted Buddhist traditions.

Head to the Flower Exhibition Centre for a burst of colours and floral beauty. This centre showcases various flowers around Sikkim and hosts an annual flower fair. It’s a paradise for nature enthusiasts and a great spot to relax and enjoy the vibrant display of colourful blooms. MG Marg, the heart of Gangtok, is a vibrant market area that offers a glimpse into the local lifestyle. Explore the numerous shops, restaurants, and cafes, and indulge in local delicacies and souvenirs.

Gangtok is also home to several breathtaking viewpoints, such as Hanuman and Ganesh Tok. These sanctuaries offer panoramic views of the city, the surrounding hills, and the snow-capped mountains of the Kanchenjunga range. These serene locations provide a peaceful retreat and a chance to connect with nature.

Last but not least, visit the Rumtek Monastery, one of the largest monasteries in Sikkim. This magnificent monastery, built in the traditional Tibetan style, showcases stunning architecture, vibrant prayer rooms, and religious artefacts. The serene surroundings of Rumtek Monastery against the backdrop of majestic hills and waterfalls create a truly awe-inspiring experience.

To make your journey within Gangtok even more memorable, don’t miss the Gangtok Ropeway managed by Damodar Ropeways. Ropeway ensures that your journey is as beautiful as the destination and is a tourist attraction itself. Established in 2003, this ropeway is operation from Deorali Bazaar to Namnang (legislative assembly). A unique feature of the Gangtok ropeway is that it is perhaps the only ropeway built across the city where cabins move above city roads. The Gangtok Ropeway provides a unique and panoramic view of the stunning Himalayan vista including the mighty Kanchenjunga surrounding the city. As you soar above the picturesque landscapes, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the mountains, valleys, and the vibrant city below.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Uttarakhand police chief asks pilgrims to stagger visit to Char Dham temples to reduce rush


The rush of pilgrims at the Char Dham temples in Uttarakhand is many times higher than their capacity, Director-General of Police Ashok Kumar said on Wednesday, and appealed to the devotees to stagger their visit as the yatra will continue till November.

More than six lakh pilgrims have visited Kedarnath since it opened on April 25.(PTI image)
More than six lakh pilgrims have visited Kedarnath since it opened on April 25.(PTI image)

More than six lakh pilgrims have visited Kedarnath since it opened on April 25. Badrinath has witnessed over five lakh devotees since its opening on April 27, according to Ajendra Ajay, chairman of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee.

Kumar told reporters, “The rush of pilgrims at the Char Dham temples at present is many times more than their capacity. It is causing all sorts of inconvenience. Traffic management has become difficult. The trek routes to the temples often get jammed and ‘darshan’ is not smooth for the pilgrims.”

He added that many pilgrims believe that the yatra is only for the months of May-June. (Also Read | Tamil Nadu’s Kodaikanal witnessing tourist boom due to annual summer festival)

“I want to tell them it will go on till the second week of November. Visiting the temples after mid-September is the ideal time for the yatra as the weather is fine. So pilgrims can stagger their visit to the temples to avoid inconvenience,” Kumar said.

He also asked the pilgrims bound for Gangotri and Yamunotri from Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana not to take the Mussoorie route, which witnesses frequent traffic jams.

Instead of taking the Mussoorie route, the pilgrims coming from these states should go via Vikasnagar, Nainbagh and Damta, he said.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has also appealed to the pilgrims to proceed on their journey to the Char Dham temples only after taking weather updates so that they don’t face any trouble on the way.

“Sometimes there is rain, sometimes there is snowfall. The pilgrims must update themselves about the weather before proceeding on their journey to the Himalayan temples as we do not want them to face any inconvenience,” Dhami told reporters.

The Met office on Tuesday issued an ‘orange’ alert for three days, warning of heavy rain and hailstorm at several places.

Ajay told PTI, “On an average, more than 20,000 pilgrims are visiting Kedarnath and Badrinath daily while their bearing capacity per day should be around 10,000.”

He said not all who visit the temples are pilgrims.

“A considerable chunk of the present rush consists of YouTubers and travel vloggers who visit the temples not purely for the purpose of pilgrimage but to increase the popularity of their vlogs or YouTube channels,” Ajay said.

“They often add to the trouble of genuine pilgrims as they break into song or dance anytime anywhere, showing total disregard for the religious traditions associated with the temples,” he said.

“The large influx of vloggers and YouTubers is another kind of disaster that has befallen the Himalayan temples in recent years,” he added.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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World Environment Day | How Tamil Nadu’s tiger reserves tackle the summer


A quintessential summer day in Tamil Nadu’s five major tiger reserves sees the dry rustle of grasslands, trickles of streams, and the occasional wild forest fire. Animals like elephants, deer and panthers step out of the shadows to lounge near water bodies and small birds ride piggyback.

“We begin preparing for the heat right from November onwards. There is a fire management plan in place. Large water troughs are constructed and regularly replenished so that the animals are taken care of,” says C Vidhya, Deputy Director of Nilgiris’ Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (Core Area).

A map of the tiger reserves in Tamil Nadu

A map of the tiger reserves in Tamil Nadu

Although summers only last one or two months in most of these reserves, the Forest Department is cautious of this particularly tricky season where animals migrate out of their habitats across highways and State borders in search of fodder. Forest guards, watchers and rangers, are tasked with patrolling the large forest grounds, spending gruelling hours amidst dense cover.

Also read: How animals beat the heat

Despite tiresome moments, Forest personnel press pause and take pleasure in the simple joys of Nature to replenish their spirits during the summer months. “The water in the troughs gets hot in the afternoons. This year, we saw a bunch of tigers splashing about in the pool, playing among themselves. It was such a lovely sight,” says Vidhya.

Ahead of World Environment Day, a look at how the tiger reserves in the State have tackled the dog days.

Srivilliputhur Meghamalai Tiger Reserve (SMTR)

The SMTR, notorious for its raging forest fires, welcomed a young calf to its six-member elephant herd, endemic to the Meghamalai forest this season.

“Amidst all the chaos and sleepless nights, this was quite a momentous occasion. Our team was overjoyed watching the birth. We’ve also been keeping track of its growth,” says S Anand Deputy Director (DD) of the reserve.

The guards also ended up sighting a massive total of 61 elephants gathering around the Udupiyaar river bed in Vannathiparai reserve. “They were hydrating and cooling off both in the mornings and evenings, between their excursions to the neighbouring hills part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Kerala,” the DD adds.

A Nilgiri Tahr seen in one of the Forest Ranges in Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary in Srivilliputhur.

A Nilgiri Tahr seen in one of the Forest Ranges in Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary in Srivilliputhur.
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

The habitat is now green and welcoming of animals like elephants and deer from the neighbouring reserves, all part of the newly created tiger corridor across Tamil Nadu. Although there have been some instances of animals straying out of the forest into farmland for food, the team has been able to manage the situation without extensive man-animal conflict. There has been an increase in the sighting of mouse deer and the flying squirrel this summer and the reserve is preparing for its yearly pre and post-monsoon tiger census.

Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR)

Summer months at STR see herds of gaur and elephants travel upwards to the hills of Hasanur to get respite from the raging heat of the forests. “The lower ranges of the STR tend to become hot. There are between eight and 10 highly fire-sensitive areas in the reserve so animals like the leopard, hyenas and black panther also seek shelter in the cooler elevated regions of the tiger reserve that is at a 900m elevation. It is common to spot pugmarks all around water bodies, says Devendra Kumar Meena, District Forest Officer, Hasanur Division and Deputy Director of STR.

Also read: How short-beaked echidnas beat the heat

“Water supply is an issue here and there is some animal conflict in the fringe villages. When there is a resource crunch, the tigers tend to come out to feed on domestic cattle but this is not particularly abnormal behaviour. This year, we have created solar borewells and strengthened our existing water bodies by desilting to ensure that there is enough supply,” he says. He adds that the reserve has focussed its manpower on creating effective fire lines in the region to ensure that fires can be quickly stopped.

The Niligiris forest division has become a refuge for resident tigers, a file photo of a tiger in Niligiris.

The Niligiris forest division has become a refuge for resident tigers, a file photo of a tiger in Niligiris.
| Photo Credit:
M. Sathyamoorthy

Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR)

“KMTR is known as the river sanctuary with 11 perennial rivers springing from here including the Thamirabarani. There is no water scarcity during our summers. We have several hundred metres of wet evergreen forests. We hardly break a sweat,” says Deputy Director of KMTR’s Ambasamudram Division, S Senbagapriya.

Animals in the reserve tend to remain deep inside the forest during the summer. Since much of KMTR is placed at a high elevation with difficult, uneven terrain, it becomes a task for the department to track the migration of animals. However, traps placed in the region show tigers moving between this reserve along the corridor leading to SMTR and PTR. The elephants from KMTR often move to Kerala during this season and spotted deer herds can be found foraging in big herds.

Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Summers in KMTR are a time when water birds arrive. “We have 135 species of birds and 350 species of butterflies here. There is a lot of chatter and colour,” the DD says.

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR)

A long national highway cuts across the MTR, seeing the movement of hundreds of animals inching towards the Moyar river in search of respite from the heat.

“There is a drastic difference in the way the forest looks before and after the rain. Between March and May, animals like the Indian gaur, elephants and tigers move towards water bodies. This is when they cross the highway heading to Mysore. People tend to stop and take selfies with the animals but do not realise the risk” says Vidhya. A major challenge that the department deals with is ensuring the safety of these animals, particularly from road accidents both during and after the summer, she says.

The summer season has started in lower Nilgiris due to this water level is coming down. A common langur descending from a tree to drink water at Moyar in the buffer zone of Mudumalai tiger reserve.

The summer season has started in lower Nilgiris due to this water level is coming down. A common langur descending from a tree to drink water at Moyar in the buffer zone of Mudumalai tiger reserve.
| Photo Credit:
M. Sathyamoorthy

Vidhya adds that jumping fires from the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and Wayanad in Kerala also require consistent surveillance. When a fire goes out of hand, it destroys the fodder available to the prey base, creating a difficult couple of months until the monsoon. “We have created real-time monitoring systems and meticulous fire lines that take into account the sensitive areas to ensure effective safety. Even light smoke can be detected by our team,” says Vidhya. They have also engaged the help of 40 tribal fire watchers, she adds.

Besides this, there is also great vigilance to ensure that poaching does not take place.

Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR)

The Valparai plateau located in the centre of ATR is a sight to behold. While dense forests form the periphery, well-manicured tea plantations lie smack in the middle, becoming a hotbed for animal conflict. A source from ATR says that nearly 180 elephants frequent their tiger reserve between January and April. May is the season for leopards, they add.

“It is common to hear of instances of conflict in this region because most people, especially the labourers, do not know what to do when encountering elephants and leopards. Over time though, our personnel have educated them. We are proud that there have barely been any casualties in the last two years. We also do not use any firecrackers to drive the elephants as we are conscious about the impact on the animal,” the source says.

Elephant handlers bathe camp elephants in a stream at Kozhikamuthi elephant camp in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve.

Elephant handlers bathe camp elephants in a stream at Kozhikamuthi elephant camp in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve.
| Photo Credit:
M. Periasamy

The region also lends itself to tourism during the summer. To ensure that tourists have a good time without disturbing nature, ATR has conducted a hornbill and primate festival this summer.

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