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After NGT ban, Manali searches for new snow points

MANALI: As National Green Tribunal (NGT) has tightened screws on unplanned tourist activities on ecologically fragile Rohtang Pass, Manali is looking for possibilities to develop more snow points to ease burden over Rohtang.

Efforts are being made to open Hamta Pass, about 10,000 feet above sea level, for general tourists this May. While local taxi operators are not happy with NGT’s order to stop movement of diesel-run taxis from May, local authorities are searching for alternate snow points, which will not only reduce traffic burden on the manali-Leh road, but would also benefit taxi operators.

Tourism and civil aviation deputy director Vinay Dhiman, who is also Manali sub-divisional magistrate, said a joint inspection with other departments was carried out on Manali-Hamta Pass road, which has been built by a hydel project company, and they found that the road can be opened for tourists in limited number. “Parking and toilet facilities would be made available soon. We plan to allow maximum of 50 tourist vehicles at one time and four such batches would be allowed in one day. This is necessary for safety purpose and to stop environment degradation,” he said.

Hamta Pass is a virgin hill top which is accessible only to trekkers. There are nearly 40 hairpin bends on the road, which takes person from altitude of 6,500 feet to 10,000 feet in one hour. Dhiman said the hydel project management is engaged in repair work of the road and another inspection of the road will be carried out after setting up tourist facilities at Gulaba near Rohtang Pass.

Authorities have been planning to open Hamta Pass since November 2013. The road passes through tough terrain and drivers need to negotiate hair-pin bends. The road could not be opened officially in 2014 and now efforts are being made to open the road this summer season.

Taxi operators to appeal before NGT on May 5

Manali: After NGT extended ban on diesel-operated tourist vehicles plying on Manali-Rohtang highway to May 5 on Thursday, taxi operators are now preparing to put their side before NGT in Delhi on May 5.

“NGT has showed some softness and given us an opportunity to tell our problems and find alternate option, if any, to reduce pollution on Rohtang,” Manali Luxury Coach Operators’ Association president Raj Kumar Dogra said. The association is now party in the case. “We shall tell the NGT how such bans will leave thousands of people unemployed,” he added.

NGT in its previous order had asked to ban movement of vehicles older than 15 years on Manali-Rohtang highway beyond Vashisht. Taxi operators claim many of them had sold their old vehicles and purchased new taxis and now even these new vehicles will be rendered useless.

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