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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

Himachal to launch Polythene Hatao Paryavaran Bachao Campaign along with plantation of 15 lakh plants

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Plastic Hatao Paryavaran bachao campaign

Shimla: While the two Municipal Corporations of Himachal Pradesh and Municipal Councils of various towns are nowhere near the solid waste segregation and proper disposal, the State Environment, Science and Technology will be launching a week-long ‘Polythene Hatao Paryavaran Bachao Campaign’ from May 27 to June 2, 2018, across the State to motivate people for the elimination of polythene and protection of the environment, Director D.C. Rana informed on Friday.

He said that this campaign would be coordinated in each district by urban local bodies and PRIs under the supervision of Deputy Commissioner.

Cooperation of all government offices, NGO’s would also be sought. Public representatives, MLA’s, Ministers would also be approached for motivating people towards shunning polythene and protecting the environment.

Efforts would also be made for cleaning of water bodies, areas near water sources, tourist places etc, during the campaign, he added.

Plantation Drive during HP Van Mahotsava

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) G.S. Goraya on Friday informed that 15 lakh plants would be planted in the state during three days plantation campaign after holding of State Level Van Mahotsava between 9 to July 15 this year.

A plantation campaign would be taken up throughout the state for three days starting two days after holding of State level Van Mahotsava between the said dates. In addition to the local communities, all members of H.P. Vidhan Sabha would also be requested to participate in the planting campaign at any of the sites on the date convenient to them.

The matter regarding the implementation of Reward Scheme for the staff of the Forest department, communities, and schools, which are doing good work in nursery raising, carrying out plantations, and forest protection work, was also discussed.

Fields officers were requested to send their suggestions on criteria to be fixed to judge good performances for purpose of nominating and finalizing the recipients of the proposed rewards.

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Creative Corner

Mulakaat: A candid video shot in Manali dedicated to Mother Nature

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Mothers-Day-Video-by-4play

Kullu: A Manali-based startup, 4Play, has offered perhaps the most wonderful tribute to the mother- nature on this Mother’s day. In just four days, a team of youths at 4Play prepared a video, which includes some very well shot scenes and fresh glimpses of marvellous landscapes of Manali.

Watch Video

The video features Praveen Ghanghas (29), a nomadic mountain lover, who can be seen climbing up a high deodar tree and standing at the top of it like an eagle. No need to say, the view was breathtaking.

Manali video by 4play 4

Praveen Ghanghas in action

The 4Play shared some pictures of Praveen, who is definitely a fitness freak, with Himachal Watcher (HW).

He is a professional mountaineer with specialization in mountain search & rescue along with being a certified wilderness medical first aid responder. He is a part of the 4Play team and leads operations of all technical shoots at 4Play.

Praveen Ghanghas

Praveen Ghanghas in action

Nature has been depicted as a caring mother, who’s always willing to give without complaining. Similarly, Mother Nature does not a complaint about the wrath that the humankind has unleashed on it. So, we owe an apology to it for irreversible damage human developmental activities have done to nature.

Manali video by 4play 3

Human flag by Praveen Ghanghas

Ironically, the Manali, like rest of the tourist towns, is overburdened with ever increasing tourist flow, and the resources of the place are falling victim to over-exploitation. The ecology is heading towards its doom while the government and the people are thinking only about exploiting the beauty of Manali for money.

We have been lately trying to bring forth the subject how the weight on the mountains is increasing and how the growing tourism is only making it worse. We have lately done stories on the same line. So on the occasion of Mother’s Day, we wanted to send out this video as an acknowledgement to all mothers (even mother nature) who never complain and continue to take care of us despite everything

, Shantanu Negi of 4Play told Himachal Watcher.

Is not it an excellent way to tell people to spend more time with nature and care-back for it?

Manali video by 4play

The video came from the same team that was behind ‘Bawali Booch’ – a short musical and adventurous tour of Manali town. It’s worth your time.

About 4Play

4Play is a start-up that is catering exclusively to the Extreme, Adventure and Action sports communities in India. Curating stories from the Indian outdoors, the group is currently weaving Eastern Hemisphere’s first content network for extreme and action sports. The team is looking forward to getting into the international arena so that athletes could gain mainstream attention.

Initially, the three founders of the start-up set, Anuj, Kshitij and Sukrit, set up their own shop in a rented apartment in a shady alley of New Delhi. However, they soon realised that metropolis was way unaffordable compared to their meagre investment. That is when they made the decision to move the operations to a quaint place, away from the much-crowded Tier 1 & 2 cities.

Very recently, the start-up launched an incubation program at Indian Institute of Technology IIIT), Mandi – Catalyst. The founders say that being one of the few startups in the region, 4Play enrolled for the program to lay the foundation of a community to spearhead enterprise in the region.

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Environment

BBN to get Rs. 3 crore SWM plant, rental charges of industrial plots waived off

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BBN solid waste managment plant

Solan: The Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial area, which had been bearing the brunt of industrialization, is likely to get a modern civic solid waste management plant.

Unfortunately, the government is very late but has finally talked about controlling and minimizing pollution in this area.

The government announced Rs 3 crore for this plant, informed the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur while presiding over the meeting of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Industries Association held here on Thursday evening on the theme ‘Himachal Industries Post Incentive Era Turning Aspirations into Realities’.

The government also announced waiving-off the rental charges of industrial plots and reduction of land sale tax of unearned industrial plots from the existing 50 percent, 30 percent and 20 percent to 20 percent, 10 percent and 5 percent respectively as per the size of the plots.

The state government would explore possibilities to simplify Section 118 to facilitate the entrepreneurs, the Chief Minister said. He said that all three major roads in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh area would be upgraded by spending Rs. 30 crores.

He said this would be effective from April 1, 2017, and would remain in force till March 31, 2022. Those units which have already commenced commercial production/operation after 01 April 2017 could register under this scheme with Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Government of India up to 30 September 2018.

The scheme will also be applicable to bio-technology and hydel power generation units up to 10 MW.

He said salient features of the scheme includes central capital investment incentive for access to credit (CCIIAC) at the rate of 30% of the investment in plant and machinery with an upper limit of Rs. 5 crores. Besides, all eligible new industrial units and existing units on their substantial expansion located anywhere in the State and are included in Fire Policy ‘C’ as per all India fire tariffs would be eligible for reimbursement of 100 percent insurance premium on insurance of building and plant and machinery for a period of five years from the date of commencement of commercial production/operation.

The government also announced to provide the incentive of partial reimbursement of SGST since the incentives to industrial units pertaining to VAT/CST have ceased to be available after enforcement of GST. In addition, under Mukhya Mantri Swablamban Yojna, youths of the State would also be entitled to a subsidy of 25/30 percent up to an investment of Rs. 40 lakh, besides interest subsidy on loan up to 5 percent and government land on 1 percent lease money.

The Chief Minister said efforts would be made to establish a trauma centre at Baddi. He said that the state government would also ensure that the administrative system in BBN Area was strengthened and made more effective.

The BBNI Association presented a cheque of Rs. 38.37 lakh to the Chief Minister towards the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.  

The Chief Minister further said he recently called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to provide some incentives to Himachal Pradesh on the analogy of North Eastern states so that the pace of industrialization did not suffer.

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