No easing of ban on people engaged in tourism, adventure and allied activities in Rohtang Pass area

Shimla: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today declined to give any relief to people engaged in tourism, adventure and allied activities in Rohtang Pass area and said the complete ban imposed on commercial activities there and adjoining Solang Nullah area would continue.

Complete ban commercial activities including para-gliding, snow scooters, horses riding , sledges and type-tube gaming at Rohtang Pass and its adjoining areas, including Solang Nullah was imposed by the Tribunal last week adversely hitting livelihood of locals.

The Tribunal asked the government to hold consultations will all stake-holders, whose livelihood will be affected by the commercial activities ban, and frame a rehabilitation plan to re-engage them in alternative employments and sustainable tourism.

Hearing the plea of the affected persons and stakeholders here today, a division bench comprising Justice Swatanter Kumar and Devendra K Aggarwal, (expert) conveyed its displeasure to the government over non-compliance of the NGT directions and even threatened to proceed against individual officers responsible for enforcing the law.

The bench also did not raise the cap on maximum number of 1000 vehicles (600 diesel and 400 petrol) permitted to go to Rohtang Pass daily and asked the government to put a proper mechanism in place at Manali for checking vehicles and issuing them permits.

The bench also ordered that hereafter only computerised permits will be issued to vehicles-owners and those intending to visit Rohtang Pass the record of the persons, including his photo-identity, will be mandatory and those found indulging in mal-practicies will be permanently debarred from plying vehicles on Manali-Rohtang Pass and only one trip will be allowed for Rohtang Pass.

Even as Advocate General Shravan Dogra tried to impress on the bench about steps taken by the government to implement all the directions admitting some bonafide lapses, the NGT refused to grant any relief on relaxing the ban to allow certain activities including horse riding (an eco-friendly) activity.

It directed the government to submit a comprehensive status report on steps taken to comply with the orders within three weeks time. Unless the government submits its report as to how a separate mule track will be created for the horses (not allowed to climb snow ), the ban on horse riding would also continue, the NGT said.

The bench issued show cause notices to all members of the committee comprising the Secretary (Environment), the Director Tourism, expert from G B Pant Institute and member- secretary, Pollution Control Board which was set up to monitor implementation of the NGT orders.

The bench issued a show-cause notice to the state government asking it about the steps initiated to prohibit commercial activities after its July 7 order and asked the government to come out a rehabilitation policy for the people, mostly from the hospitality industry, going to be affected by the ban and listed the case for August 13.

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