Bid to save Rohtang Pass from tourists

News, Views

imageShimla :Tourism activity is being sharply cut in and around the majestic Rohtang Pass, easily the most popular Himalayan pass in India.

The beautiful Kullu valley in Himachal Pradesh state is well known with Indian and foreign tourists.The 13,050 ft high Rohtang Pass overlooks the stunning valley below from where they drive up to the mountain top in large numbers.

Concerned by heavy pollution which is threatening the Himalayan terrain the National Green Tribunal (NGT) earlier this week banned all commercial tourism activity in and around the pass. And also the adjoining ski slopes considered the best in India.

The green court banned horse riding,snow scooters,snow biking,tyre-tube gaming and paragliding here.It also banned raising of shacks selling eateries to passing visitors.

“Except water,everything else is prohibited in and around the pass,” the green court ruled.

“There is a right to tourism but it has to be within the framework of the fundamental rights of the public which takes precedence,” the court explained.

Normally about 5000 tourist vehicles visit the pass every day.

Some weeks ago the court limited this to 1000 vehicles per day.It rapped the Himachal Pradesh government for not following its orders strictly.

This summer each vehicle going uphill has to pay a heavy green tax at Manali. A six seater has to cough up Rs 5000(tax) for every trip to and fro.

During the tourist season the rush is so great the 51 km 2 hour journey from Manali to the Rohtang pass can take seven hours as there are long traffic jams and cars crawl often up to the mountain.

The green court consulted environment scientists of the local Pant Himalayan Environment Institute who said vehicle emissions and other pollution was causing huge damage including rapid melting of glaciers.

“Black carbon and other pollution was beyond the safe limit since 2012,” scientist J C Kuniyal said in his report.

There was not even proper disposal of garbage littered by visitors every day he said.

The NGT chairman justice Swatanter Kumar ordered,”There is complete chaos on the Rohtang Pass and nearby glaciers which were shrinking by 20 m every year since 1986.”

Also the snow on the pass and ski slopes below were turning black due to vehicle pollution.

“We have immediately started carrying out the court order strictly in the area,” Rakesh Kanwar a top official(DC Kullu) told Sun Post.

Over the years holiday makers visiting the scenic Kullu valley in Himachal Pradesh have been flooding the pass each day raising pollution concerns for long.

After the court’s intervention this number is expected to come down sharply, many say.

A winding uphill road full of dramatic hairpin bends from Manali leads to the pass.Manali is one of the most popular hill stations in India particularly with backpacker Westerners for decades.

The Rohtang pass remains closed half the year for traffic due to heavy snow. In early spring the pass is often 30 feet deep under snow.

The Rohtang pass in Tibetan means a ‘heap of dead bodies’ and due to sudden weather changes even in high summer blizzards strike the pass trapping and even killing people.