The district of
Lahul and Spiti in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh consists of
the two formerly separate districts of Lahul and Spiti. The present
capital is Keylong in Lahul. Before the two districts were merged,
Kardang was the capital of Lahul, and Dankar the capital of Spiti.
Lahul and Spiti are cut off from the
rest of the world by high mountain ranges. The
Rohtang Pass, at 3,978 metres, separates Lahul and Spiti from
Kullu Valley.The district borders
Tibet to the east, the
Ladakh region (within the state of Jammu and Kashmir) to the
north, and Kinnaur and
Kullu to the south.The Lahul sub-division consists of the
Rangoli, Bhaga, Pattan, and Lingti
valleys; while the Spiti sub-division consists of the Sham, Pin,
Rohtang Pass has a reputation for
avalanches and road-slides, and many travelers have been killed
while crossing the pass. A newly built metalled road that leads over
this pass to Ladakh is kept open for most part of the year because
of its strategic importance. The building of a tunnel below the
Rohtang Pass is under way, and is expected to be completed by 2012.
Large quantities of potatoes, now the major crop of Lahul and Spiti,
are transported over the Pass into
Manali each year.
There are also passes that lead from
Spiti into southwestern
Tibet, but these are now shut due to the closed border between
India and Tibet. There is another road leading west to Jammu through
Kishtwar, the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Lahul and Spiti are cut off from
each other by the higher Kunzum Pass,
at 4,550 metres. A road connects the two divisions, but is cut off
in winter and spring due to heavy snow.
Buses and taxis are available from
Manali to Kaza, the headquarters of Spiti, during the summer months.
The Kunzom pass remains open for vehicular traffic from around July
to October. Road through Kinnaur, connecting Shimla with Spiti for
vehicular traffic, is closed presently due heavy damage to the road,
but the road remains open through the year , but people have to
cover some parts on foot.
Because of their height, Lahul and
Spiti have a very cold climate during winter months. Summer is quite
pleasant. This often results in disruptions to electricity and
transport, and there is little tourism during the cold winter
months. However, the Spiti valley is accessible all year along the
Old Hindustan Tibet road from Shimla to Kaza. The Lahul valley is
not accessible until June though. however from December to April
helicopter services at weekly intervals are available.
The climate of Spiti is too cold to
tundra vegetation, and much of the land is barren and wild. It
is a rare phenomenon to see temperatures rising above 20°C during
the summer months, even at the lower elevations.
Flora and fauna
The harsh conditions of Lahul permit
only scattered tufts of hardy grasses and shrubs to grow, even below
4,000 metres. Glacier lines are usually found at 5,000 metres.
Animals such as yaks and dzos roam
across the wild Lingti plains under the guidance of their masters.
However, over-hunting and a decrease in food supplies have led to a
large decrease in the population of the Tibetan antelope,
Tibetan argali, Kiangs, musk deer,
and snow leopards in these regions, making them endangered species.
In lahoul valley one can easily see Ibex, brown beer, foxes and snow
leopard during winter.