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Taxi operators cheer after Manali-Rohtang ‘electric bus service’ cancelled ahead of peak tourist season

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Electric bus service in Rohtang cancelled

Shimla: The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur was supposed to flag-off the much awaited electric bus service on April 30, 2018, from Manali to Rohtang for the tourists.  However, it was cancelled at the last moment. 

It doesn’t sound like a co-incident that the members of the Him Anchal Taxi Union, Manali, had approached the minister urging him to not to begin the service as it was hitting their livelihood. Otherwise, a protest was already planned ahead of the CM’s visit to Kullu.

However, the ceremony was cancelled suddenly.

The peak tourist season beings in May, therefore, the taxi operators are cheering as the tourists won’t have any other option but to hire expensive services of the cabs.  

Himachal Pradesh had not only become the first state to commission 100 percent battery-powered electric buses but also the first in the world to ply them at an altitude of 3, 978 meters (13,000 feet) on mountainous terrain of Pir Panjal ranges of the eastern Himalayas when Transport Minister GS Bali flagged off the first bus on September 22, 2017.

The decision had faced protest from the local cab operators back then too.

However, it was on November 14, 2018, that two of the newly commissioned electric buses on Manali-Rohtang Pass stretch begun ferrying passengers on a regular basis. The HRTC was charging Rs. 600 per seat for a two-way trip starting from Manali to the Rohtang snowline.

The electric buses are manufactured in a tie-up with Chinese firm BYD Auto Industry Co Ltd. Each bus costs 1.70 crores and Himachal had bought 25 of them at that time. The total cost of this deal was Rs. 48 crores.  

The CM, however, said he was not under any pressure and some unfinished formalities caused the cancellation.  He did not mention anything specific about the period for which the introduction of the e-buses would remain pending.

The CM also contradicted his statements given to media in which it was suggested that the government was looking to find a middle-path to provide relief to the taxi operators. Also, the taxi union said the operators were ensured that the e-bus service would be put on hold. 

 The decision was taken by the previous government after the National Green Tribunal had lashed out at it for unchecked environmental degradation around Rohtang Pass due to increasing load of domestic and international tourism.

The taxi operators had been protesting against the NGT orders as well as the plying of electric buses. The previous government could not ignore the orders despite the protests.

In 2014, taking note of research works pointing out fastening of glacier melting in the vicinity to Rohtang and blacking of the snow due to heavy vehicular emissions, the NGT had restricted the entry of vehicles to only 1,000 including both diesel and petrol.

The transport minister is also of the view that the developmental works would be taken up only after considering the interests of the people first.

Though the decision would benefit the local taxi operators and the hospitality industry, it can’t be done at the cost of environmental degradation. It must not be forgotten that the tourism industry exists because of the natural beauty and purity of the air in Rohtang Pass.

Therefore, we should hope that the government would not take such crucial decision to temporarily please a section of the hospitality industry.  The environmental protection lies at the root of human survival and delay in taking measures to avert it will only make it worse.

We hope that the government would actually come out with some productive solution to ensure the protection of both – the interests of the locals as well as environmental protection.    

Environment

Shrikhand Mahadev Faces Garbage Crisis, IMF Team Collects 1900 kg Garbage During 12-Day Cleaning Campaign

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IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 f

Kullu-During 2019 season, a local boy treks the holy shrine of Shrikhand Mahadev. Shrikhand is not only a holy place but is also a very beautiful and picturesque place at an altitude of 5300 metres.

Lalit Mohan had imagined the place to be green, clean and tranquil, which was the reason he had decided to trek it. Little did he know that the mountain was no longer the grand trail he had trekked years ago. He was shocked over what has become of this place. There was crowd everywhere and terraces had been cut over the campsites to accommodate numerous tents. Most of the water sources had dried up and remaining were badly polluted with plastic waste. He was surprised that the situation was the same even at the top, which is supposed to be the holy spot. A lot of offerings were made in plastic bags and glass bottles.

IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 2

He returned to Delhi and wrote a letter to the Director of Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) for hosting a cleaning drive along the entire trek. With a positive response from the director IMF, Col. H.S. Chauhan, a cleaning drive expedition was planned by the IMF in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and NSS. A team was formed that comprised of the members of the Indian Mountain Federation Lalit Kanwar, Praveen Dahiya, Hemant Sharma, Nikhil Chauhan and Rajat Jamwal. The team was led by Lalit Mohan. The expedition was flagged off by the SDM, Anni, Kullu district, on October 2, 2019.

The team got to work from the base campsite at Shingad and collected unethically disposed of garbage from the campsites at Brati Nala, Reyosh Thach, Khumba, Thathi Bheel, Thachru, Kali Ghati, Bhim Talai, Kungsha, Bhim Dwar, Parvati Bagh, Nain Sarovar and the Shrine on top. The garbage mostly comprised of remains of plastic sheets, bottles, wrappers, left-over food etc.

IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 2

Two major reasons behind this widespread littering and unethical disposal of garbage are the public feasts (Bhandaras) and the pandals erected to host them. Moreover, there were around 700 private tents which were set up throughout the mountain. Also, these tents do not provide even temporary toilets and visitors relieve themselves in open wherever they can. 

It is also important to note that the Kurpan stream, which flows through this valley, is the only snow-fed source of drinking water for many villages.

IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 3

It appears that authorities responsible for granting permission for setting up campsites in this fragile environment did not pay any attention to prepare a proper plan for waste management. Most of the area falls in the reserve forest category, and it is surprising to see that according to the forest rules, no one can be granted permission to set up a campsite in a reserve forest area.

Strong religious sentiments are associated with the Shrine of Shrikhand Mahadev, but growing movement of visitors without proper management in such a fragile environment has its own side-effects.
IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 4

The team made their way to the top in minus 10 degrees temperature and was shocked to find plastic waste strewn over the glacier too. The team collected a total of 1900 kgs of garbage in about 170 sacks. The sacks were ferried down the mountain with the help of local people, who came ahead to support the team in its quest during the expedition. The team returned to Nirmand village on the October 14. The garbage was deposited with the Block Development officer at Nirmand. The team held meetings with schools students at Jaon and Bagipul villages to spread the message of conserving and protecting the environment and taking steps to maintain cleanliness in the mountains.

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HIMCOSTE ENVIS HUB Training on “Securing High Range Himalayan Ecosystems” Begins Today

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HIMCOSTE ENVIS HUB Training

Shimla- HP ENVIS HUB at Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE), Shimla, today kicked off its one-month training program on Para-taxonomy under the GoI-UNDP-GEF Project “Securing Livelihoods, Conservation, Sustainable use and Restoration of high range Himalayan Ecosystems” (SECURE Himalaya).

This program is being conducted in collaboration with HP Forest Department and State Biodiversity Board for Lahaul, Pangi and Kinnaur landscapes of the State. Under this program, selected youth would be trained for documentation of local biodiversity in the form of People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs).

The Chief Guest of the inaugural function was Dr Savita, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife). Sh. Anil Thakur, CCF (Wildlife) and Dr S.P. Bhardwaj, Retd Associate Director, Regional Fruit Research Station, UHF, Nauni were special guests on the occasion.

Speaking on the inaugural function today, Dr Savita, PCCF (Wildlife) said that snow leopard is the iconic animal of high Himalayas. A good number of these apex predators denote a healthy ecosystem. To ensure the survival of these beautiful animals, sustainable use of forest resources and generation of alternative livelihood opportunities is pertinent.

The initial step to conserving local biodiversity is its documentation as Peoples Biodiversity Registers (PBRs). She lauded the efforts of ENVIS Hub in implementation of Green Skill Development Program (GSDP) last year and now training students in SECURE Project.

Dr Aparna Sharma, Coordinator, HP ENVIS Hub, informed that under this course, selected students would be imparted theoretical and practical knowledge by eminent experts in the fields of botany, zoology, forestry, wildlife, importance and conservation of Biodiversity, waste management, remote sensing & GIS. In association with State Biodiversity Board, field visits would be carried out to prominent Universities, Research Institutions and conservation areas of Himachal Pradesh for exposure to local flora, fauna and its documentation in PBRs.

A total of nine students have been selected for the training program: six from Pangi, two from Lahaul and one from Shimla. The best of trained youth would be involved in making PBRs in selected landscapes by the HP State Biodiversity Board.

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Video: CM Jairam Urges People to Celebrate Green Diwali After Setting Cracker Laden Effigies on Fire

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CM Jairam burns effigy laden with crackers

Shimla-Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on the occasion of Dussehra set ablaze the effigy of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhkarana on fire at Jakhu Temple in Shimla. Afterwards, while talking to media persons, the CM talked about the harmful effect of fire-crackers on the environment and urged the people of the state to refrain from using fire-crackers while celebrating Dussehra and Diwali.

He said considering the grieve problem of pollution that the world is currently facing, it’s the need of the hour to take concrete steps towards environmental protection. He said every individual should be encouraged to celebrate green Diwali.

However, it appeared that his government was not practising what it was preaching. The effigies that the CM set ablaze were filled with fire-crackers. Moreover, a round of fireworks was held right before ‘Ravana Dahan’.

There was a suitable opportunity for the CM and the organizers to send out an environment-friendly message on this Dussehra by refraining from using fire-crackers in effigies, which they missed.

On this occasion, the Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, Deputy Commissioner Amit Kashyap, Narinder Bragta, chairman, HIMFED, Ganesh Dutt, Deputy Mayor Rakesh Sharma, and SP Omapati Jamwal were also present. All of them appeared to be clueless about sending a “Green” message.

Further, the Chief Minister talked about the victory of good over evil and taking the path of righteousness.

Dussehra festival signifies the victory of good over evil, truth over false and dharma over adharma. The Dussehra festival inspires us to follow the path of dharma (righteousness) and truth as in the end truth always wins,

he said.

He urged the people to work collectively to kill the demon of drug abuse from society. He laid the foundation stone of Nav Grah Mandir to be constructed at a cost of Rs. 15 lakh and also inaugurated a Museum at Jakhu Temple Complex.

Effigies were burnt at various places in Shimla including Summerhill, Chakkar, Kasumpti, Boileauganj, Vikasnagar etc. All the effigies were filled up with fire-crackers, which suggest that the government’s movement to discourage using fire-crackers is not yielding any results.

Similarly, cracker laden effigies were burnt in other districts of the state too.

Apparently, we need to devise innovative ways to make the celebrations of Dusshera and Diwali green. For example, a green celebration of Dusshera was witnessed in Delhi where a Ravana made of balloons was taken down without burning.

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