Manali: A three month waiver for plying of diesel vehicles to Rohtang Pass came as a relief for tour and taxi operators here but the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stiff congestion charge imposed for using the Manali – Rohtang route has caught them high and dry.
The green tribunal in its order earlier in the week has directed that every vehicle passing through check posts be subjected for a pollution level check and only those vehicles be permitted to get to the 3000 meters plus Rohtang Pass which confer to the permitted emission (BS – IV) standards. No overloading is permitted.
The NGT order has also restricted the number of vehicles to 1000 (600 Petrol, 400 Diesel) that are to be permitted on a first come, first serve basis for using the Manali – Rohtang route on any given day. Besides, the permitted vehicles would be levied an environmental compensation fee at the rate of Rs 1000/- for petrol & Rs 2500/- for diesel vehicle. A vehicle with a carrying capacity of more than 6 passengers would need to cough up Rs 5000/- as environment compensation fee. The heavy charge is only for a one time entry.
The green fee collected would have to be kept in a separate account that has to be utilized only for the purpose of restoration of ecology and environment in the defined eco-sensitive area.
The tribunal has directed the state authorities to ensure deployment of appropriate staff for regulating traffic congestion between Vashist village and Rohtang Pass.
Speaking to Hill Post, Raj Kumar Dogra, President Manali Luxury Coach Owners Association said, “permitting plying of limited diesel vehicles after imposing so high congestion charges is bound to hit the tourism trade here,”
The taxi operators too are not happy with the green diktat. “Most taxi owners cum drivers earn their yearly livelihood in the summer tourist season as Rohtang Pass is the main tourist destination. By restricting the number of vehicle access, over 60 per cent of taxi operators would have to wait for two days for their turn,” said Hari Singh, a taxi owner cum driver.
Manali alone has over 3000 taxis that are making a living out of tourism in the valley.
Sonu Rana, another taxi operator said, “tourists visit Manali only to see the snow on Rohtang pass. Where over 3,000 vehicles used to ply the Manali-Rohtang road during peak time, reducing the number to 1000 vehicles means many tourists would have to return without getting to the snow points on the pass.”
Makerdvaj Sharma, general secretary of Manali taxi union disclosed to Hill Post that there were very few vehicles compliant with BS-4 emission standards available in the valley which would only add to the woes of the transport needs during the tourist season.