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Hire a consultant, involve locals, devise masterplan for Lahaul-Spiti, says Ravi Thakur

Lahaul-Spiti MLA and Vice-Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes Ravi Thakur speaks to The Indian Express.

Written by Ashwani Sharma | Rohtang |
Updated: July 22, 2016 6:32:37 pm
rohtang, rohtang tunnel, rohtang tunnel project, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes , Lahaul-Spiti district, himachal pradesh snowfall, himachal pradesh, rohtang pass, Lahaul-Spiti tourism, ngt, isolation, heavy snowfall in rohtang, heavy rainfall in himachal pradesh, indian express news, india news, indian express hardlook The road leading to Lahul-Spiti district.

What is the reason behind the delay in completion of Rohtang Tunnel?

The Rohtang Tunnel project is very important for the tribals of Lahaul who remain cut off for six to seven months when the Rohtang Pass is closed owing to snow. The project was launched in 2010. The target year for its completion was 2015 but it has been pushed to 2019. I doubt if BRO (Border Road Organisation) will be able to meet the target. I am told there are some geological issues. Conditions under which the work is being done are very harsh. The working period is less, too. There are a few issues with the government also. Officials keep sitting over matters, like the one relating to BRO’s request to transfer land that is to be used for extraction of materials like sand and grit. The Centre and state government should together act to ensure completion of the tunnel without delay and cost overruns.

What is the preparedness for influx of tourists in Lahaul-Spiti once Rohtang Tunnel opens?

This is an issue that I have been taking up with the government at all forums and official meetings. Before the tunnel is completed, the administration at Keylong must be ready with a masterplan. I have suggested to the government to hire a consultant, involve stakeholder, locals and devise a plan to enforce some strict regulatory mechanism.

What are your fears?

There is a lot of hope and big fears as well. We have the example of Rohtang Pass before us to show how things went wrong and NGT had to invoke some very tough measures. I want the Bhutan model of tourism to be adopted. Lahaul-Spiti is a virgin area with very rich culture, glaciers, lakes, clean rivers, gompas, small population and poor infrastructure. The sudden influx of tourists and vehicles will choke this place and cause heavy pollution.

What should be done?

There should be a masterplan for creating the best infrastructure. Constructions should be done on the lines of local architecture. No highrises should be allowed. The number of vehicles coming to Keylong should be restricted. Steps should be taken to build a big airstrip for tourism and military.

Who should regulate the new measures?

I have mooted a proposal to set up a special hill development council on the lines of Ladakh hill council. That will change the whole scenario of development in the area. But I know being a lone voice it may not motivate the government. Yet, it is the need of the hour.

Read | Hardlook: After 2015, Rohtang tunnel project likely to miss 2019 deadline too

Read | Hardlook: Lahaul-Spiti district waits for a tunnel to end isolation

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