NGT clears decks for plying of CNG buses to Rohtang

 In a step aimed at minimising pollution in the eco-sensitive area of Rohtang pass, the National Green Tribunal Thursday cleared the decks for plying of CNG buses on 51-km long Manali-Rohtang highway.

New Delhi: In a step aimed at minimising pollution in the eco-sensitive area of Rohtang pass, the National Green Tribunal Thursday cleared the decks for plying of CNG buses on 51-km long Manali-Rohtang highway.

The Tribunal's nod to run CNG buses came after Himachal Pradesh government told a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar that trial run has been successful and the state has planned to introduce CNG buses for regular operation from Vashist to Rohtang pass.

"We direct Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to provide the available number of buses to the state of Himachal Pradesh demanded by the Secretary, Transport immediately.

"In fact the buses which have been sent on trial could be provided forthwith. These buses would be operated by state government for the remaining of the current tourism season," the bench said, adding "state shall also place order for buying CNG buses, which are luxury buses with high-power engine".

The state government on July 23 had completed the second and final trial run of CNG bus on 51-km long Manali-Rohtang highway in the presence of NGT deputy registrar, Himachal Road Transport Corporation regional manager and officials from Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL).

The Tribunal also granted the Himachal Pradesh government time till September 17 to file a status report on the steps taken by it to control "unregulated and unplanned" tourism in the state.

"In order to provide another opportunity to the State Government to show its bonafides and actual implementation of the direction passed by the Tribunal, the State Government may file status report of the steps taken by them from July, 2015 to September, 2015, three days in advance to the next date of hearing already fixed at Shimla i.E on September 17, 2015," the bench said.

During the hearing, various taxi associations had also sought permission to conduct trial run of CNG vehicles under the supervision of the state.

On the issue of supply of CNG to vehicles at Manali, the Tribunal directed the Additional Chief Secretary and Secretary, Transport, of Himachal Pradesh to discuss the matter with GAIL or with any other agency and submit a complete and comprehensive report.

"This should be done immediately, which is only an arrangement for 6 months or till the requisite plant is established at Nangal, where the pipeline is passing through as stated. The Transportation Agency for supply of CNG at Mandi would be suggested by the Gail Gas India Ltd," the bench said.

It also directed that status report by state government shall be in the form of affidavit to be filed by the Additional Chief Secretary and supported with photographs or videos.

The Tribunal also directed the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police, and the concerned Secretaries to be present in the Chamber meeting at Shimla on September 17, 2015 at 10 AM.

With regard to resettlement of people whose livelihood is likely to be affected by compliance of the directions of the Tribunal, the Himachal government said it is already examining the rehabilitation scheme to ensure ecological and environmental balance and protection at Rohtang pass.

The NGT had earlier extended its stay on its order banning entry of all diesel and petrol tourist vehicles till August 14, while limiting the number of vehicles entering the popular tourist destination to 1,000 per day.

It had also fixed environmental compensation, with every petrol vehicle going there having to pay Rs 1000 and diesel vehicle Rs 2500. The Tribunal had also said each vehicle carrying more than six passengers would be liable to pay a compensation of Rs 5,000 as environmental compensation for single entry.  

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