Considering a plea submitted by the Himachal Pradesh (HP) government, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has lifted the Environment Cess imposed on vehicles plying between Manali and Rohtang Pass, as a step to control vehicular pollution in the ecologically fragile area. The NGT had set a limit on the number of vehicles which can go to the Rohtang Pass to 1,000 per day and imposed an Environment Cess of Rs 2,500 and Rs 1,000 on diesel and petrol vehicles, respectively, for each trip on the 52 km stretch from Manali to Rohtang Pass earlier this month.While lifting the Environment Cess, the NGT remained adamant on the number of vehicles (1,000 per day) which can go to the Rohtang Pass. Out of the 1,000, 600 would be petrol vehicles and 400 diesel vehicles, subject to pollution check. Around 1,500 taxi operators in Manali were on strike and remained off the road against the NGT decision for the last 10 days.
The tourism stakeholders of Manali have breathed a sigh of relief with the new order. Anup Thakur (DIG Retd), President, Manali Hoteliers Association and Proprietor, Hotel Manali Continental, added that they too want a balance between the economy and the ecology of Manali. Thakur said, “We welcome NGT’s decision to remove the Environment Cess which was a big burden on the taxi operators along with the rent, leaving their business not-so-profitable. But at the same time, we feel that limiting the number of vehicles to 1,000 too, isn’t practical enough.”Harmit Singh, Chairman, IATO Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh Chapter, too expressed relief. But Singh insisted that in the long run in order to curb the major deterrent, which is pollution and emission of harmful gases, fuel adulteration should be stopped.