No Rehabilitation Plan For NGT Ban Affected Villagers Of Kullu Manali Valley

Manali: With the National Green Tribunal (NGT) having refused to relax the ban on commercial activities at the Rohtang Pass and its surrounding areas, the Himachal Pradesh government unable to create new tourist destinations to divert the heavy influx of tourists to the snow-covered gateway to Lahaul and Spiti district.

The NGT order on banning number of vehicles’ to Rohtang pass on July 6, 2017 has affected an estimated 4,000 families residing in nine villages of the area. For the past four years these locals were engaged – legally or illegally – in providing snow scooter, ATV, horse riding and paragliding services besides running ‘dhabas’ (makeshift roadside eateries) to tourists at various places like Solang, Marhi, Vashishth and the Rohtang Pass.

An average number of 5,000 tourists visited the mighty Rohtang Pass during peak tourist season. But the tourist arrivals declined after the NGT ban, leaving the stakeholders, including hotel owners, dhabas, taxi operators, and those engaged in tourism activities high and dry.

Beas Kund near Rohtang Pass

Earlier, the principal NGT bench comprising justice Swatanter Kumar and expert member Dr Devendra K Aggarwal had directed the Himachal Pradesh government to submit a plan for the rehabilitation of families whose livelihood was affected by the ban. The tribunal had also asked the government to hold consultations with stakeholders before compiling its report.

Besides the ban, the NGT bench had directed the government to issue computerised permits to vehicle owners intending to visit the Rohtang Pass. NGT had made it mandatory to maintain a record of visitors, including photo identity, and those found indulging in malpractices would be debarred from plying vehicles on the Manali-Rohtang Pass. It also directed to allow each vehicle only one trip to the Rohtang Pass per day.

After NGT restrictions, local natives lost their source of livelihood and are still waiting for the execution of the rehabilitation plan.

Earlier, over 4,000 taxis were allowed to ply towards Rohtang pass, which was the source of livelihood for taxi operators in Kullu-Manali. Similarly, around 4,000 families of Manali and its nearby villages like Palchan, Burua, Shnag and a few others were engaged in providing tourists activities like snow scooter, local dresses, skiing, ATV, horse riding, paragliding and others at the Rohtang Pass to earn their livelihood. These issues will haunt the BJP and the Congress, which will be a decisive factor for a candidate’s. As the Govt. fails to find legal remedy to get some relaxation to resume tourist activities at Rohtang pass.

Unis Khan, Dc Kullu revealed that the suggestion by public and status report has been submitted to NGT. We will follow the guide lines and orders of the court as and when it comes.

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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