Regulated Tourism Cleans Up Rohtang Pass, Livelihood Issues Continue To Bother

Manali: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on commercial activities and restrictions on the number of vehicles plying to Rohtang Pass top has had an impact for the carbon black layer on the snow cover is not there and there is no eyesore of tourist litter messing up the scenic value of the spot.

Roadside eateries, dhabas and other unauthorised constructions that gave it an cluttered look, and unsystematically parked vehicles that cluttered and blocked traffic on the Manali-Leh national highway for hours in a stretch are not there this summer.

Food wrappers and empty water bottles littering the place have disappeared. No eatables are allowed at Rohtang Pass. Tourists have now extra open space to walk around more freely after NGT restricted the total vehicles permitted to Rohtang Pass at only 1,200 per day.

File Photo: Rohtang Pass by Sanjay Dutta
File Photo: Rohtang Pass by Sanjay Dutta

By regulating vehicle and tourist flow to the high altitude pass has also impacted local residents, who drew out a livelihood from the three summer months, when tourists traffic to Manali and Rohtang Pass used to peak.

Six panchayats — Palchan, Manali, Vashisth, Chaleen, Nasogi and Bhuria, have been hit hard by the NGT ban for almost 80 per cent of the families living in these areas were connected directly to tourism business of renting dresses, dhabas, photography, snow scooters, paragliding and taxis.

Though NGT relaxed the ban last month, to allow some non-polluting activities like photography, renting of pahari dresses and paragliding, but with there being rehabilitation plan in place to help those who have been rendered jobless, a simmering resentment prevails among the affected.

Officials regulating the permit system at the Manali Sub-Divisional Magistrate office, however, say they have been able to effectively implement allowing only 1,200 vehicles to the pass on a day to day basis .

Jyoti Rana, subdivisional magistrate Manali says, “we started giving permits online as per NGT orders. It is open to all and anybody can access the website. Tourists wanting to visit Keylong in Lahaul valley or Leh can also apply and get the permit without any restriction.

However, to prevent misuse, we do not allow them to return the same day after just visiting Rohtang Pass.to ensure permits are not misused,” said Joyti Rana.

Protesting the NGT ban Anup Thakur, president Manali Hoteliers Association says, “It’s wrong to say that glaciers at Rohtang Pass were melting due to tourists or their vehicles for there are no glaciers at Rohtang Pass.”

He adds, “ban is no solution to the problem of pollution. It’s all about regulating tourists’ traffic. We also want to protect Rohtang Pass for prosperity, it is our biggest selling point. What we are stressing is dispersal of tourists’ to other places around Manali.”

The association has suggested the development of five other sites — Hamta, Brighu Lake, Kothi Ropeway for Vashisth-Palchan, Gulaba, and Paralsu as tourist destinations in the valley.

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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