As temperatures spiked past 45 degrees Celsius in parts of Northern India, coupled with the onset of summer vacations in schools, flocks of people made their way to the mighty mountains seeking some relief. However, this resulted in a four-km long traffic jam on the Manali-Leh highway earlier this Sunday. By Bayar Jain

Barely a few weeks into the opening of the pass, people were left stranded on the highway for hours due to this choke. Photos emerged online were people could be seen stepping out of their vehicles, waiting for their turn to inch forward. Some were even forced to spend the night on the roads.

Crossing through Lahaul and Spiti, this 490-km long highway connects Himachal Pradesh’s Manali to Leh and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, respectively. According to reports, over 10,000 vehicles make use of this road during the summer. Already prone to snowfall and landslides, the traffic only makes matters worse for this heavenly abode. Adding to this long wait, the existence of a lone – often locked – public toilet at Koksar on the Manali-Leh highway further adds to the inconvenience. As a result, tourists are forced to defecate in the open. The smoke from the vehicles also added to the already worsening air quality of the region.

The Manali-Leh highway, however, is not the only one to be plagued with people. Similar reports from other hill stations such as Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh have also emerged. In Uttrakhand, for instance, the commute time from Haridwar to Char Dham in Garhwal has doubled. Reportedly, it takes almost 18 hours to cover the 317-km distance between Badrinath and Haridwar.

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