Affected by NGT ban, Rohtang families seek new destinations
Hit by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on all commercial activities at the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh, the local stakeholders who lost their source of livelihood want the state government to develop alternative tourist destinations and eco-friendly markets in the Kullu-Manali region to rehabilitate them.punjab Updated: Jul 20, 2015 19:29 IST
Hit by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on all commercial activities at the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh, the local stakeholders who lost their source of livelihood want the state government to develop alternative tourist destinations and eco-friendly markets in the Kullu-Manali region to rehabilitate them.
The NGT orders passed on July 7 had ended tourism-related businesses such as snow-scooter adventure, horse ride, sleigh, skiing and dress rental at the Pass and its adjoining areas, affecting more than 4,000 families in nine villages between Manali and the snow point. On Monday, the district administration organised a meeting of the stakeholders at Manali to hear their views on the issue and their suggestions on rehabilitation.
Refusing to lift the ban, the tribunal had asked the state government to draw a rehabilitation plan for the affected families. Taxi and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) operators, hoteliers, pony owners, dhaba and eating-joint owners, and paraglider pilots were among more than 200 affected stakeholders that gave their suggestions to Kullu deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar.
“We demand alternative tourist destinations in the region to compensate and rehabilitate the affected people,” said Kullu-Manali Hoteliers’ Association president Anup Thakur. He suggested developing scenic but less-explored spots such as the Hamta Pass, Chanderkhani, Bhrihu lake near Manali. Dola Thakur of the paragliding association said adventure activities were non-polluting and so these should be allowed.
Local legislator Govind Thakur asked the state government to ensure the rehabilitation of all affected people and put a comprehensive plan before the NGT. All stakeholders were in favour of regulated tourism activity at the Rohtang Pass to control pollution, and suggested that develop eco-friendly markets could be a solution, since that will improve sanitation. They are ready to help develop a ropeway between Vashist village and the Rohtang Pass.
Deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar told them that the state government had decided to develop eco-friendly markets at Marhi and Solang, and rehabilitating the affected families there. “For the project, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has cleared 92 bighas of land at Marhi and Solang,” he said. He wants ideas submitted at his office in Kullu before July 26.
In July, a five-member committee filed a ground report about blatant violation of the NGT order at the pass. It claimed that the government had failed to restrict commercial activities at Solang and Manali, although it had removed kiosks and roadside dhabas on way to the pass.
Toilets will help
For proper waste disposal at the Rohtang Pass, the stakeholders want eco-friendly markets in the region. In the peak tourist season, the point receives a average of 10,000 visitors, who upon finding no toilet are forced to defecate in the open, which has degraded the local environment. At the pass and the nearby Solang, Marhi, and Gulaba, nearly 250 horse owners, 400 skiers, 50 ATV operators, 150 snow-scooter drivers, and 220 paragliding units offer joyrides to tourists for income.