August 18, 2015 4:05:18 am
Just in 24 hours after a complete ban on movement of tourist vehicles to Rohtang Pass, Manali hit its lowest-ever tourist arrivals, which stood at barely 5 per cent on Monday.
The ban came into force Monday morning after Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar passed orders to enforce directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had given temporary relaxation for 1,000 tourist vehicles for Rohtang Pass, a high-altitude snow destination for Manali tourists.
Owing to the ban, not a single tourist vehicle was allowed to ply on the Manali-Rohtang road. Only vehicles bound for Leh-Ladakh and Lahaul-Spiti, beside Army vehicles ,were allowed.
As police, tourism department and local administration officials took charge to ensure there were no violations, Kanwar said: “Anyone found going to Rohtang Pass on pretext of visiting Leh or Keylong will be dealt sternly with as par NGT orders.”
The ban was clamped by the NGT on February 6, 2015. On May 5, a relaxation was given for the tourist season till August 14.
In the August 13 hearing, the NGT did not extend the relaxation to tourist vehicles.
“These days, the hotel occupancy is between 30 to 40 per cent. It’s just 5 per cent today. It may drop further in the coming days. The ban will erase Manali’s name from world tourism Map,” Anoop Thakur, president of Manali Hoteliers’ Association said.
In his plea to CM Virbhadra Singh, Thakur has asked the government to file a review petition to the get the number of vehicles fixed at 1,000 or to allow alternatives 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.
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