Manali: Cleared of all tourist activity, the popular Rohtang Pass wore an abandoned look as the district administration has enforced the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order by banning plying of all tourist vehicles to the high altitude pass from Sunday (16.8.2015).
About 33 lakh tourists visit Kullu-Manali valley each year and Rohtang Pass that wears a snow cover for about 8 months in a year holds a great attraction for all who visit the region.
With NGT directing stopping of all vehicles be they petrol or diesel powered for tourism purposes beyond Vashist Village. The district administration on Sunday passed directions to taxi operators that no vehicle would be allowed to move on Rohtang road from Monday in compliance with NGT order.
“NGT in its order dated May 5 had given three month’s relief and had permitted to take maximum of 1,000 vehicles every day to Rohtang pass and the relief period has expired,” Kullu deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said.
“Complying with the NGT order, all petrol and diesel vehicles will not be allowed to go Rohtang pass. However, the ban is not applicable on vehicles going to Lahaul-Spiti and Ladakh beyond Rohtang pass,” said Kanwar.
Decision of Kullu Administration has left tourists, tour operators and hotel owners in the valley an agitated lot. The local tourism stakeholders, specially the Taxi Unions & Hotel Association people have termed it as a most ‘unfortunate’ decision.
Kanwar warned that those who do not comply with the order will be liable for strict legal action.
Manali sub-divisional magistrate Jyoti Rana said local administration, tourism department and police are directed to keep a close watch on traffic movement on Manali-Rohtang route.
“If anybody found visiting Rohtang on the pretext of visiting Lahaul or Ladakh and flouting the order, would be dealt with strictly,” said Rana.
Anup Thakur, President, Manali Hoteliers Association said “this arbitrary decision will cripple the tourist industry in Kullu-Manali region”.
Makardhwaj Sharma,General Secretary Manali Taxi Union said “thousands of families dependent on taxis have no clue about their livelihood in the aftermath of this ban”.
When contacted, SDM Manali,Jyoti Rana was tight lipped about the alternative arrangements to take thousands of tourists coming to Manali and desiring to visit Rohtang Pass.
Photo: Sanjay Dutta
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.