Perturbed over the National Green Tribunal's fresh directive on protecting the fragile ecology of the Rohtang Pass, hoteliers, taxi operators and other people associated with the tourism industry in the district have decided to apprise the chief minister about their grievances. Tourism is the most important sector of the region's economy after horticulture and agriculture, providing livelihood to hundreds of families.
Hoteliers, restaurant owners and cab operators are now facing constraints due to the heavy influx of tourist vehicles in the area which pose a threat to the environment due to huge emissions of carbon gases and other pollutants, especially in the peak tourist season when the number of vehicles often cross 5,000 in a single day. Grave concerns expressed by environmentalists led the tribunal to ask state government to take effective measures to protect the ecology in the area.
Speaking to this reporter, Anup Thakur, chief of the local hoteliers' association, stated: "The National Green Tribunal has issued a new order wherein petrol run tourist vehicles will be charged Rs 1,000, diesel vehicles Rs 2,500 and vehicles carrying more than six passengers Rs 5,000 for plying on the Leh-Manali road leading to the Rohtang Pass. This will adversely impact the region's tourism and hospitality sector. We will now urge Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to take the issue to the Supreme Court."
"To reduce the heavy influx of visitors to the Rohtang pass we will request the CM to develop other tourist destinations in the region. There are a lot of scenic places on the lower Himalayan range and in other areas of the district," he added.
Meanwhile, owners of 'dhabas' (roadside eateries) situated on the Leh-Manali road who were evicted recently plan to meet the chief minister to demand a proper policy for their rehabilitation. The 'dhaba' owners lost their livelihood when the district administration earlier this year razed the illegal structures on the roadside, where they were running their business for the past many years.
A few days ago all the evicted 'dhaba' owners gathered near Bahng, a few kilometers from Manali, to express their solidarity and decided to come out on the streets if the state government did not address their issues.
"Apart from, residents of the Raysan and Archhandi areas will urge the chief minister to declare the left bank of the Kullu-Manali road a national highway", said Aruna Thakur, head of the Archhandi 'panchayat'.