Save Rohtang from pollution, says Himachal court

Shimla, April 26 (IANS) The damage to the Rohtang Pass’s fragile eco-system by the increasing tourist inflow and exhaust fumes of vehicles is likely to get curbed with the Himachal Pradesh High Court acting tough against the state government.

The state should ensure that all unauthorised food stalls and eateries in the area are removed in a time bound manner, said a division bench of Chief Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice R.B. Misra in their recent order, the copies of which were made available to the media Friday.

Hearing a petition taken up suo motu by the court on the harm caused to the Rohtang glacier by pollution, the judges said the state must provide substitute mobile vans to supply food and drinking items to the tourists visiting the area.

The majestic 13,051-foot high pass, located 52 km from Manali, attracts a number of tourists. It remains snowbound for over six months in winter owing to heavy snowfall.

The court directed the state tourism department, in association with the state pollution control board, to arrange day-to-day awareness camps at appropriate locations to spread environmental awareness among the tourists.

The court listed the matter for next hearing May 2.

Officials told IANS over 2,000 vehicles go over the Rohtang Pass every day during peak tourist season – from June till November. A major component of the traffic is defence vehicles with the forces reaching supplies to strategic points through the pass.

Excessive emission of the carbon monoxide from the vehicles and huge quantities of trash left behind by tourists on the Rohtang Pass are taking a toll on the snow cover and native flora, J.C. Kuniyal, senior scientist of the Kullu-based G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, told IANS.

He said at several points the snow is turning black due to soot accumulation. Even the rocks along the highway have turned black or dark grey.

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