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Air quality in Shimla, Manali declines due to tourist influx

india Updated: Jun 29, 2017 10:26 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla

Air-quality monitoring of Shimla shows that pollution on the roads surges between 10am and 6pm. Experts attribute the decline in air quality to increase in traffic.(Deepak Sansta / HT)

Kashmir’s loss is certainly Himachal’s gain in terms of tourism but at the cost of air quality. The ongoing unrest in the Valley has led to tourist influx in Himachal Pradesh, bringing cheers to the hospitality industry, but resulting in a rise in vehicular traffic. Such ingression has alarmingly deteriorated air quality in major tourist towns, besides impacting the ecology due to littering.

State’s capital in the past one month has witnessed heavy tourist footfall, which increases manifold on the weekends. Around 4,000 vehicles enter Shimla on weekends apart from locally-registered vehicles. There are 14,000 vehicles registered in Shimla and its vicinity. The level of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) has increased by 40% in last fortnight.

The state environment and pollution control board gathers the ambient air-quality data through its monitors at two locations -- one at the bus stand and other at the Ridge. The RSPM level at the main bus stand on the circular road was recorded at 97.74 microgram per metric cube, almost double the permissible limit.

This level multiplies during the weekends. Air-quality monitoring of the town also shows that air pollution on the roads surges between 10am and 6pm. Experts attribute the decline in air quality to increase in traffic.

“We have formulated a joint plan with other departments concerned to monitor the air quality,” member secretary pollution control board Sanjay Sood told Hindustan Times. “We have already suggested government to ban the old vehicles plying in the town,” he said, adding, “Rains should bring down the air pollution level now.”

However, he offered no explanation on pollution control board’s failure to check the carbon emission from tourist vehicles.

Similarly, the air-quality level has also decreased in Manali that attracts hordes of tourists. The RSPM level in Manali increases on the weekends with the latest being recorded at 60.35 microgram per metric cube.

The influx of tourist vehicles also results in emission of more toxic gases -- sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Moreover, the tourists also tend to leave behind trails of litter.

“Managing garbage is a difficult affair for us. The garbage generation doubles in the peak tourist seasons,” Manali municipal council president Shabnam Tanwar said.

He said the waste management plant in Manali is obsolete and we want the government to upgrade. “Even the trash, particularly plastic, from Rohtang Pass is treated here,” he said.

Manali town and panchayats in vicinity generate around 20 metric tonne (MT) garbage on daily basis with volume increasing up to 50 MT in tourist season.

Manali municipal council is now seeking help from its ward members, hoteliers and taxi operators to run a drive to clean up the trash left by visitors.

First Published: Jun 29, 2017 10:17 IST