Manali: Kashmir’s loss in terms of tourism trade is certainly Himachal’s gain but at the cost of air quality. The ongoing unrest in the Valley has led to tourist influx in Himachal Pradesh, bringing cheers to the hospitality industry, but resulting in a rise in vehicular traffic. Such ingression has alarmingly deteriorated air quality in tourist towns, besides impacting the ecology due to littering.
State’s capital in the past one month has witnessed heavy tourist footfall, which increases manifold on the weekends. Around 5,000 vehicles enter manali on weekends apart from locally-registered vehicles. There are 17,000 vehicles registered in manali and its vicinity. The level of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) has increased by 40% in last fortnight.
The state environment and pollution control board gathers the ambient air-quality data through its monitors at Mahal, Kullu. . The RSPM level at the Mohal in Kullu was recorded 97.7microgram per metric cube, almost double the permissible limit.
This level multiplies during the weekends. Air-quality monitoring of the town also shows that air pollution on the roads surges between 10am and 6pm. Experts attribute the decline in air quality to increase in traffic.
“We have formulated a joint plan with other departments concerned to monitor the air quality,” disclosed the sources of pollution control board. “We have already suggested government to ban the old vehicles plying in the town, the sources, added
However, he offered no explanation on pollution control board’s failure to check the carbon emission from tourist vehicles.
Similarly, the air-quality level has also decreased in Manali that attracts hordes of tourists. The RSPM level in Manali increases on the weekends with the latest being recorded at 60.35 microgram per metric cube.
The influx of tourist vehicles also results in emission of more toxic gases — sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Moreover, the tourists also tend to leave behind trails of litter.
Dr.D.J.Kuniyal , of G.B.Pant, Mohal kullu while speaking to Hill post said there is alarming increase of 23.2 percent air pollution level from last one decade.
“Managing garbage is a difficult affair for us. The garbage generation doubles in the peak tourist seasons,” Manali municipal council president Shabnam Tanwar said.
She said the waste management plant in Manali is obsolete and we want the government to upgrade. “Even the trash, particularly plastic, from Rohtang Pass is treated here,” She said.
Manali town and panchayats in vicinity generate around 20 metric tonne (MT) garbage on daily basis with volume increasing up to 50 MT in tourist season.
Manali municipal council is now seeking help from its ward members, hoteliers and taxi operators to run a drive to clean up the trash left by visitors.