The Himachal Pradesh government will move the Supreme Court against the recent National Green Tribunal (NGT) order to ban commercial activity near Rohtang Pass.
“We will challenge the matter (ban on commercial activity at Rohtang Pass) in the Supreme Court,” chief minister Virbhadra Singh told Hindustan Times on his return from Delhi on Tuesday.
In a veiled reference to the NGT, he said: “Unreasonable steps should be reconsidered. There is no glacier at Rohtang Pass and the preservation of the ecology has been my government’s priority.”
Reiterating his concern for the environment, Virbhadra said: “It was my government that led the fight against the forest mafia and banned felling. All saw mills in the state were closed down. My government introduced cardboard cartons in place of wooden ones to package apples and other fruits.”
He went on to say: “Rohtang Pass is not the end of Himachal Pradesh. It’s en route to strategic roads that connect Leh and Ladakh besides other frontier areas.”
The NGT had banned commercial activity, including horse riding, snow biking, paragliding, tyre-tube gaming and snow scooters at Rohtang, Solang and Marhi, earlier this month and had issued a show-cause notice to the Himachal government, to check environmental degradation and melting of the glacier that has been receding at the rate of 20 metres a year since 1986.
Refusing to relax its ban on commercial activity on July 16, the NGT principal bench, comprising Justice Swatanter Kumar and expert member Devendra K Agrawal, directed the Himachal Pradesh government to submit a plan for the rehabilitation of families whose livelihood had been affected by the ban.
The tribunal also asked the government to hold consultations with stakeholders before compiling its report.
The bench expressed its annoyance over the non-compliance of its ban order while cautioning state government officers that no effort to undermine the NGT’s authority would be tolerated.
The bench issued notices for non-compliance of its order to the secretary, environment; director, tourism; conservator, forests; member secretary, state environment pollution control board; and the authorities of the Gobind Ballabh Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Kullu.