In a landmark judgment, National Green Tribunal (NGT) taking a serious note on need for protection of Rohtang pass glacier, has ordered imposition of fee for those persons travelling by public or private vehicles to the glacier.
In its orders dated February 6, NGT Principal Bench New Delhi has directed state government for adoption of measures that includes a sum of money as contribution on the principle of ‘Polluter Pays’ wherein every truck, bus and vehicle of any kind which passes through the route ahead of Vashisht and Rohtang Pass shall be liable to pay a sum of Rs.100 for heavy vehicles and Rs.50 for light vehicles.
The passengers travelling through the CNG or electric buses to Rohtang Pass as tourists shall be liable to pay a sum of Rs.20 per head, which shall form part of the ticket for the bus.
The funds collected by state government will be kept under the existing head of Green Tax Fund that is presently collected for entry at Manali and amount so collected will be used exclusively for development of the area from Vashisht to Rohtang Pass and 5 kilometers ahead of Rohtang Pass.
NGT directed that this amount should also be used for prevention and control of pollution, development of ecologically-friendly market at Marhi, for restoring the vegetative cover and afforestation. The funds shall not be used for any other purpose whatsoever maintained NGT. The operational vehicles like those of Border Road Organization (BRO), Army would be exempted from paying the Green Tax and General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) and BRO is directed to ensure that the road remains in motorable condition round the year.
In relation to vehicular pollution the directions issued comprise setting up of common check posts or barriers by the authorities concerned, more particularly by the Department of Tourism, the BRO, police, the Pollution Control Board and the Directorate of Weights and Measures at the entry point to climb near Vashisht.
Government may operate CNG or electric vehicles itself or may outsource the same but directly under its control and supervision in the public or public-private sector by following the procedure in accordance with rules maintains NGT.
The petrol driven vehicles plying in Manali and other surrounding areas of Rohtang Pass should have catalytic converters in all types of vehicles. Preferably even the diesel driven vehicles should be provided with soot collector system to reduce carbon soot pollution.
Some steps are to be taken immediately and should not beyond three months from the date of passing of this order includes cleanliness and public amenities that include providing of public amenities and absolute cleanliness at Rohtang Pass and even en route.
To ensure absolute cleanliness, prohibition of carrying and use of any kind of plastic bags, packaging material of food or other items, no littering nor spoiling the beauty and environment of the glacier by throwing plastics and other wastes or remnants of eatables on the glacier, will be strictly adhered.
State government may develop at Marhi a small market which will be entirely eco-friendly and would not be a permanent structure, necessities of day-to-day life for the tourists and eco-friendly toilets.
NGT directed government for sincere efforts to be made to restore and maintain the forest areas for which high density of traffic in the forest area is be controlled, need for carrying out reforestation activity rapidly and at a massive scale, taking adequate and effective measures for prevention and control of forest fires, prevention of deforestation along all slopes, promotion of appropriate cover of trees, shrubs, bushes and grass would further help to prevent soil erosion and preservation of natural eco-system, which would also help in enhancing and maintaining the forest cover.
State government has been directed agencies to identify areas that can be brought under reforestation and immediate and effective measures for reforestation of the area of Kothi, Gulaba and Marhi.
Furthermore reforestation shall be taken up as a top priority project and all possible efforts would be made for commencing and completing the plantation in this area.
NGT also directed state to constitute a monitoring committee that shall tour the area of Rohtang Pass and en route and ensure that the directions contained in this order are carried out in true spirit and substance.
If any department, person or authority is found to be erring in such matter, then it shall bring the same to the notice of the Tribunal for appropriate action.
Monitoring committee will have to submit quarterly reports to the NGT, clearly stating non-compliance with the directions.
State government should expeditiously explore the possibility of providing rope-way from Vashisht to Rohtang Pass.
G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Kosi-Katarmal, Almora, after expiry of six months from the date of passing of this order, shall conduct a study of the glacier of Rohtang Pass in all respects and submit a report to the Tribunal immediately thereafter.
Restriction in the use of snow scooters at Rohtang Pass will be implemented and only those snow scooters will be allowed which are less than 4 years old. Scooter should be battery-operated and this direction shall be strictly adhered to.