The official report of National Green Tribunal (NGT) deputy registrar Sheetal Sharma that led to a blanket ban on all tourism-related business at Solang, Rohtang and Marhi in the Kullu-Manali circuit of Himachal Pradesh, affecting the livelihood of thousands of people, was prepared in just three house of family trip.
Sent to Vashist village and the Rohtang Pass on June 22 to check whether NGT's earlier directions to stop environmental pollution because of the business activities had been complied with or not, she took her husband, son, and mother-in-law along on this official visit, where she prepared her ground report based on what can only be a short observation amid sightseeing.
Sheetal Sharma submitted a 76-page report, on the basis of which the NGT, on July 6, directed Kullu's deputy commissioner and superintendent of police to ensure that no tourism-related commercial activiey, including adventure sport, was permitted at Solang, Rohtang and Marhi. The official, members of her family, and NGT-appointed local commissioner advocate Rakesh Gupta had left the Vashist barrier at 11am for the Rohtang Pass and were in the Solang Valley at 5pm, in six hours. The travel time between is about three hours.
It means she had just three hours at Snow Point and other areas around the Rohtang Pass, and also the distraction of family. Officials from the local administration had accompanied the team. Asked to react, Sheetal Sharma first said she was not authorised to speak with the media. But then she was asked categorically why she had taken her family along on an official tour. "Send your questionnaire to the NGT, on your organisation's official letterhead," she said, and hanged up. After that her office didn't pick up the telephone.
Where's her glacier?
In just three hours spent at the Rohtang Pass, the NGT official claims to have counted 5,000 vehicles, even when the administration's record suggests that only 971 were allowed in, and 371 more were let through on way to Leh. In her report, she mentions a glacier at Rohtang, while there is none. She also reports that commercial activities on the pass have reduced the Beas Kund glacier to a mere mud patch, which in her opinion, can't feed a mighty river such as the Beas. Beas Kund, however, is not at Rohtang, but to the other side.