Uttarakhand HC asks government to impose ‘glacier tax’ on tourists
In a bid to keep a check on climate change, the Uttarakhand high court on Monday asked the state government to impose a ‘glacier tax’ on tourists visiting the Himalayas.
Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), the court observed that there was large-scale degradation of the ecology in the Himalayas and glaciers were “rapidly depleting”.
Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh said the rapid depletion of glaciers may lead to drying up of rivers like the Ganga and the Yamuna and can affect people across the nation.
The court ordered the Uttarakhand chief secretary to prepare guidelines on tourism activities close to glaciers.
The bench said that if necessary, limited passes should be issued to tourists visiting the upper reaches.
“It shall be open to the state government to impose a reasonable fee by terming it glacier tax, on persons visiting areas near the glaciers. The amount realised by way of glacier tax shall be used only for the benefit of people visiting the area including the pilgrims,” the court ordered.
It also ordered the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to issue directions declaring all hill stations in Uttarakhand and glaciers as ‘eco-sensitive zones’ under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 within three months.
In December 2012, the MoEF had declared a 100-km stretch of the Bhagirathi river from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi as an eco-sensitive zone.
The court also asked the state to ensure a blanket ban on any form of plastic within 20 km of glaciers.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in a separate order had also banned plastic from Gaumukh till Haridwar.
Vishal Rastogi, a glacier expert, welcomed the order. “The biggest challenge is to enforce it,” he told HT.