NGT wants CNG buses to Rohtang in November

NGT wants CNG buses to Rohtang in November

Continuing with the ban on commercial activity at Rohtang Pass, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday asked the state government to ensure complete trial of CNG buses on Manali-Rohtang Pass route in November. When informed about the high cost involved in transporting CNG to Manali, the tribunal directed Indraprastha Gas Limited to make short- and long-term plans to provide CNG at Sundernagar and Manali.

Considering the fact that Manali is hub of winter sports and has produced many international skiiers, the tribunal, while hearing the Rohtang pass pollution case, allowed skiing for sports competitions at Solang. However, it warned that commercial skiing activity would invite penalty of Rs 50,000 for each default and Kullu deputy commissioner, tourism department and pollution control board would be held personally responsible for violations.

On the issue of allowing paragliding at Gulaba, circuit bench of the NGT, headed by chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar, asked the state to submit a proposal within a week, but only after identifying untouched areas first. Advocate General Shravan Dogra had sought permission for paragliding at Gulaba.

When the counsel appearing for small vendors asked for permission to allow activities of small vendors at Rohtang Pass citing their livelihood concerns and referred to Street Vendors Act, Justice Swatanter Kumar asked her why commercial activity was required to be undertaken only at Rohtang Pass. “You are talking of 140,00 feet above sea level, which is not a commercial place,” he added. He said that glaciers all over the world are receding and in Manali they are receding at a rate of 10-12 meter per year. “Then where would you go… It is better you protect nature,” he asked.

As the counsel pleaded that people involved in small operations like selling of chana or tea or similar activities be allowed to operate at Rohtang Pass as their livelihood was being affected, Justice Swatanter Kumar said that all were worried about taxis, small vendors, horses and taxi operators, but no one was worried about nature. “All these commercial activities exists because of Rohtang Pass. If Rohtang would be wiped out, then where would they go,” he added. He said that small vendors can carry their activities at Marhi or some other place.

When the counsel for snow scooter operators tried to make his submission, the tribunal asked him to find ways to convert diesel- and petrol-operated snow scooters into battery-operated ones, besides identifying the place where they would be operated.

Appearing for taxi and luxury bus operators, advocate Jyotsna Rewal Dua pleaded for fair and transparent allotment of permits to go to Rohtang Pass. The tribunal said that out of 1,000 permits, 100 should be allotted to the union, but they should ensure transparency in their further distribution. It asked for submission of a proposal on this.

The counsel appearing for (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) DMRC said that CNG buses are ready, but the state government was not acquiring them. On this, the tribunal directed the government to take the required steps and ensure plying of CNG buses in November.

When Advocate General Shravan Dogra said that storage facility needs to be ready before CNG buses ply to Rohtang Pass, the tribunal directed to arrange extra cylinders.

The counsel appearing for Indraprastha Gas Limited said that they have two options before them-that CNG is either directly filled from the cascade or a daughter CNG station is readied; the latter would take 6 months to a year to complete. He further informed that laying CNG pipeline to Manali is not feasible while supplying CNG in cascade would cost around Rs 1,500 per kg instead of actual cost of Rs 40/kg due to huge transportation cost involved.

NGT directed Indraprastha Gas Limited to submit short-term and long-term proposal on the issue of supplying CNG to vehicles at Manali. It said that pipes should be first laid to set up a CNG filling station at Sundernagar and then upto Manali for a second filling station and has sought compliance report from concerned authorities on the CNG issue and on Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy on October 5.

The case is listed for next hearing in Delhi on December 17.

‘Thanks for saving Rohtang’

Before the beginning of the hearing, senior officials of Himachal Pradesh, including chief secretary, additional chief secretary (tourism), DGP, member secretary pollution and others, appeared for the chamber meeting and unequivocally stated before the NGT that the government would not only implement various directions of the tribunal issued in the past sincerely and effectively, but also praised the NGT for protecting the most beautiful place in the state.

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