August 18, 2015 9:00:52 am
In just 24 hours after a complete ban on movement of tourist vehicles to Rohtang Pass, Manali hit its lowest-ever tourist arrival, which stood at barely 5 per cent on Monday.
The ban came into force Monday morning after the Kullu Deputy Commissioner (DC) Rakesh Kanwar passed the orders to enforce directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had given temporary relaxation for 1,000 tourists vehicles (600 petrol and 400 diesel) for Rohtang Pass, a must-visit high-altitude snow destination for Manali tourists.
As a result of the ban, not even single tourists vehicle was allowed to ply on the Manali-Rohtang road. Only vehicles bound for Leh-Ladakh (J&K) and Lahaul-Spiti, beside Army vehicles,were allowed by the local administration.
As police, tourism department and local administration officials took charge to ensure there were no violations, the Kullu DC said: “Anyone found going to Rohtang Pass on the pretext of visiting Leh or Keylong will be dealt sternly as per the NGT orders.”
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The ban orders were passed by the NGT on February 6, 2015. On May 5, a relaxation was given for the tourist season till August 14.
During the August 13 hearing, the Tribunal did not extend the relaxation given to tourist vehicles, even as daily data of vehicles — which were granted permissions till August 14 — was less than 400.
“During these days, the hotel occupancy is between 30 to 40 per cent. It’s just 5 per cent today. In next few days, the tourist arrivals may drop further. The ban will erase Manali’s name from world tourism map,” Anoop Thakur, president, Manali Hoteliers’ Association said.
In his plea to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, Thakur has asked the government to file a review petition to get the number of vehicles fixed at 1,000 or to allow alternative modes of transport, like CNG buses, to the Rohtang Pass.
At a meeting Monday, various stakeholders — taxi operators, traders, tourist guides — met in Manali to set a deadline for the government to get the ban relaxed till alternatives were worked out.
Thakur said hoteliers and other stakeholders would organise a mass protest if the state government failed to meet their demand by August 21.
Meanwhile, officials in Shimla claimed that the state’s Senior Additional Advocate General Surya Narain was told to make a mention before the NGT about the
situation in Manali post the ban.
“It may come up tomorrow as the government will at least see extension of the relaxations till Rohtang Pass is officially closed for the season in November 2015,” a senior official in Shimla said.
The state’s transport minister G S Bali informed that successful trial of the CNG buses was over, but till a gas station was set-up at Manali by the GAIL, the plan will not be operational.
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