National Green Tribunal lifts Environment Cess on vehicles
In consideration to a plea by the Himachal Pradesh (HP) government, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has lifted the Environment Cess imposed on vehicles travelling between Manali and Rohtang Pass, which was meant as a step to control pollution in the ecologically fragile area. The NGT had set a limit of 1,000 vehicles per day, which could go to the Rohtang Pass. Along with that an Environment Cess of Rs 2,500 on diesel vehicles and Rs 1,000 on petrol vehicles, for each trip on the 52 km stretch between Manali and Rohtang Pass.Even with the lifting of Environmental Cess, the NGT remained resolute on the number of vehicles (1,000 per day) allowed to go through to Rohtang Pass. Of the 1,000, 600 would be petrol vehicle and the rest 400 would have to be diesel, subject to pollution check. The decision by the NGT had caused disruption in Manila, with 1,500 taxi operators calling a strike and remaining of the road in protest.With the new order the tourism stakeholders of Manila breathed a sigh of relief. Anup Thakur (DIG Retd), President, Manali Hoteliers Association and Proprietor, Hotel Manali Continental, stated that they too want a balance of economy and ecology in Manali. Thakur added, “We welcome NGT’s decision to remove the Environment Cess which was a big burden on the taxi operators along with the rent, leaving their business not-so-profitable. But at the same time, we feel that limiting the number of vehicles to 1,000 too, is not practical enough.”Chairman, IATO Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh Chapter, Harmit Singh also expressed relief, but insisted that in the long run in order to stop pollution and emission of harmful gases, fuel adulteration would have to be stopped.“I am pleased to hear that NGT has removed the Environment Cess due to which the tourism sector of Manali can gain in its peak period,” said Sarab Jit Singh, Secretary, Indian Tourist Transporters Association (ITTA). “The vehicle owners are already loaded with a number of taxes both at the time of buying vehicles and also during every refuelling. The Environment Cess would have been an additional burden,” Singh added. He said that carrying capacity is a major issue at all tourist destinations in India and has to be addressed jointly.Vice-Chairman of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Board (HPTDB), Major Vijai Singh Mankotia, said that a high level meeting would have to be convened in order to assess the situation and take appropriate action. “We too, wish to draw a fine line in maintaining the beauty of the ecology and the environment thereby addressing the concerns of the tourism stakeholders of Manali,” Mankotia said.