Ecological destruction: No CNG vehicles in Rohtang yet

Ecological destruction: No CNG vehicles in Rohtang yet
Highlights

The Himachal Pradesh government is doing little to implement an order to ply CNG buses on the majestic Rohtang Pass, an area that is staring at ecological destruction.

The Himachal Pradesh government is doing little to implement an order to ply CNG buses on the majestic Rohtang Pass, an area that is staring at ecological destruction.

In a written reply to the assembly on March 12, State Transport Minister G.S. Bali said there is no proposal to start compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in the high hills. He, however, added that "in the low hills, modalities in this regard could be worked out".
With this, the state government seems to have disregarded the order of the National Green Tribunal to run CNG vehicles on the pass to protect its fragile ecology.
Scientific studies show that the eco-system of the high Himalayan mountain pass Rohtang, located at an altitude of 13,050 feet and some 52 km from picturesque tourist spot Manali, is being damaged by the increasing tourist inflow and exhaust fumes of vehicles.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has however rejected the possibility of CNG buses being plied.
"The issue of environment is not limited till Rohtang Pass only. We have to care for preserving the same throughout the state. Plying of CNG buses for facilitating tourism just till Rohtang is not feasible," an official statement quoting the chief minister said.
The pass lies on the watershed between the Chenab and the Beas river basins.
Excessive emission of carbon monoxide from the vehicles and huge quantities of trash left behind by tourists on the Rohtang Pass are taking a heavy toll on the snow cover, says the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a Nagpur-based institute that has carried out studies on the impact of pollution on the local ecology.
Its report, laid in the house on March 12 relating to another question, said the Rohtang Pass, located in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas, is visited by 18,000 to 20,000 tourists every day, mainly between May and September. In May, the number of vehicles that ply on the pass is around 3,200 every day, of which 80 percent are cars.
The pass remains snowbound for over six months in winter.
Anthropogenic activities have left a strong impact on the flora and fauna of the pass, some 300 km from state capital Shimla, it said.
"Due to cold weather and walls of snow along the road (leading to the pass), the pollutants released through exhaust get adhered to the glaciers and remain there till melting of snow starts (May-June)," said the report.
These pollutants, it said, absorb heat and enhance melting of glaciers.
"The water formed due to melting of ice gets contaminated by the vehicular pollution and adds contaminants."
According to NEERI, the Beas 'nallah' or rivulet has the highest concentration of chloride owing to vehicular exhaust. The presence of potassium along with chloride confirms that biomass burning also plays a significant role in ionic composition of the glaciers.
The National Green Tribunal in November last year observed that the ice mass on the Rohtang Pass is reducing rapidly due to air pollution and in the next 20 to 25 years it may vanish altogether.
This would create serious repercussions on ecology and the environment of Himachal Pradesh, and the tribunal has called upon the state government to ensure public transport runs on CNG to cut down on air pollution in the region.
The tribunal also asked the state to take a decision to link the pass with a ropeway.
Sticking to its earlier order, the tribunal again categorically clarified that any vehicle more than 10 years old would not be permitted to ply to the Rohtang Pass.
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