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Depleting air quality at Rohtang raises concern

india Updated: Jan 02, 2013 21:05 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times
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Concerned over the damage to environment, Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board has decided to set up a station to monitor air quality at Rohtang Pass, owing to heavy traffic flow.

Studies conducted by National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) concluded that the water and air quality at Rohtang was deteriorating. Experts of NEERI conducted the monitoring of air quality at Rohtang Pass. Experts at Rohtang monitored the air quality for a week at three different locations, Solang valley, Palchen and Koti.

The studies concluded that "the width of the road is not enough to sustain heavy traffic which leads to massive traffic jams, resulting in higher gas emissions from vehicles".

According to NEERI, during May-end last year, the total number of vehicles along the road between Manali and Palchanfg were 3,180, the number of the vehicles plying from Palchang to Marhi were 1,836, whereas the number of vehicles plying from Palchang to Solang valley were 1,344. The studies noted that cars comprised maximum 86% of the total traffic, while two-wheelers 2% and heavy motor vehicles were only 12% of the total number of vehicles. The study concluded that tourists' influx was resulting in deterioration of air quality which is likely to worsen in the days to come.

Experts drew water samples from the area between Koksar and Manali. In total, scientists collected 27 samples of water from Bewa and Chandra rivers. The studies revealed that there was no chemical pollutant in the water but the water quality deteriorated from upstream to downstream.

"There was a large quantity of fecal coliform bacteria found in nullahs which could lead to waterborne diseases. We are drawing a proposal to set up an air-monitoring system at Rohtang Pass so that traffic can be regulated accordingly. The ecology of Rohtang Pass is fragile," said Kuldeep Singh Pathania, chairman, pollution control board.

According to NEERI studies, among the different ions analysed, potassium, chloride and phosphorus were detected in different samples. The highest concentration of potassium was observed at Rani Nullah. Beas nullah had the highest concentration of chloride which indicated contribution from vehicular exhaust. But the presence of potassium along the chloride confirms that biomass burning also plays a significant role in ionic composition of glaciers.

NEERI has conducted assessment of flora and fauna at Solang Valley, Tungu, Gulaba, Marhi and Khoksar areas.

The vehicular pollution leading to gaseous emissions is also harmful to plants. "Tourist activities like trekking and mountain biking on the slopes have caused destruction of old as well as new plantations. Increased use of horses and sledges has caused loosening of the soil," the studies conclude.

Road construction activities have a disastrous effect on the natural habitats of flora and fauna. They have caused heavy soil erosion and destruction to forest cover.

Incidence of solid waste disposal, including polythene and plastics, has increased due to influx of tourists and has ruined the aesthetic value of the region.