Vehicles on Rohtang should be fuelled by CNG: Green panel

The ice mass on high Himalayan mountain pass Rohtang, overlooking this tourist resort in Himachal Pradesh, is reducing rapidly due to air pollution and in the next 20 to 25 years it may vanish altogether, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said.

This would create serious repercussions on ecology and the environment of the entire Himachal Pradesh, the NGT has warned and called upon the state government to ensure public transport runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) to cut down on air pollution in the region.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) made its recommendation at its recent hearingbased on the scientific studies on the eco-sensitive Rohtang Pass (13,050 ft), located 52 km from here.

The NGT, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, listed the matter for next hearing Jan 8. The tribunal said: “The destruction of the forest is one of the main causes which resulted in the present scenario.”

“Thus, the directions were even issued with regard to the re-forestation and for giving due protection to the forest area.”

It asked the state government to immediately take steps to ensure to-and-fro plying of CNG buses from Vashisht (in Manali) to Rohtang. These buses will be only for the purpose of tourism and no tourist buses or other private vehicle will be permitted to go to the pass.

“This condition should be enforced without default now, since there has been consistent non-compliance and no effective steps have been taken by the state in this regard,” it said.

It also directed the state to have in place environmental-friendly toilets at Rohtang, Gulaba and Marhi by Dec 31.

To reduce impact on the fragile eco-system with the increasing tourist inflow and exhaust fumes of vehicles, the NGT asked the state to take a decision to link the pass with a ropeway.

Issuing a statutory warning, it said the people throwing waste of any kind in the area should be fined in accordance with law and if necessary the repeated violators should be brought before the tribunal to be dealt with in accordance with law.

Sticking to its earlier order, the NGT again categorically clarified that any vehicle more than 10 years old would not be permitted to ply to the pass, which remains snowbound for over six months in winter.

Officials told IANS that over 2,000 vehicles go over the Rohtang Pass every day during peak tourist season – from June till November.

A major component of the traffic is defence vehicles with the forces reaching supplies to strategic points through the pass.

Excessive emission of the carbon monoxide from the vehicles and huge quantities of trash left behind by tourists on the Rohtang Pass are taking a toll on the snow cover and native flora, showed studies by the Kullu-based G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development.