Green Tribunal’s ban on diesel driven tourist vehicle to Rohtang Pass has government in a fix

 Manali: Pitching the district administration against taxi and tour operators, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had decreed that no diesel operated vehicles for tourist purposes be permitted on the route to Rohtang Pass (Altitude 13,050 feet).

Tempers are bound to rise in Kullu-Manali valley as the summer tourism season picks up and as the ban on plying of diesel vehicles to Rohtang Pass comes into effect from 1st May.

“No diesel vehicle is permitted for tourism purpose to Rohtang Pass after May 1, 2015,” the NGT order decrees.

Photo credit: Manjit Singh
Aerial view of Rohtang Pass (Photo credit: Manjit Singh)

 Other than buses plied by Himachal tourism (HPTDC) and private operators during the tourists’ season, more than 2500 diesel based tourists taxis of local operators would be impacted by the NGT order.

The order passed at the start of the tourist season is likely to create problems for more that 15,000 tourists’ each day, who look forward to visit the cooler climes of Rohtang Pass in May – June.

The order, however, exempts petrol vehicles and locals travelling to the tribal district of Lahaul-Spiti, who have to cross over Rohtang Pass to access the landlocked region.

Border road engineers at work on road to Rohtang Pass
Border road engineers at work on road to Rohtang Pass (Photo by Sanjay Dutta)

To enforce the order, the Green Tribunal has directed the state government agencies, which includes environment protection departments to post adequate staff at Gulaba, Vashishta and Manali check posts to ensure that no diesel driven tourist vehicle plies on the road to Rohtang Pass.

To implement the order, the administration is likely to face difficulty in differentiating between those tourists who are headed for Rohtang Pass and those who are headed into Lahaul-Spiti, said a government official on conditions of anonymity.

Trekkers make their way to the pass (Photo by Sanjay Datta)
An army camp below the pass (Photo by Sanjay Dutta)

Rohtang Pass is under mounds of snow as it received one of the heaviest snowfalls in the last 35 years. In the some ravines (Nallahs) glacial snow collections is more than 100 feet and the pass top has a cover of about 20 feet of snow.

Border Roads Organisation (BRO) tasked with clearing the vital road over the pass have already let it be known that there could be a delay by a month in opening the high pass for traffic. The BRO engineers working with the clearing operation hope to open the pass by mid-May.

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

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