Shimla: The National Green Tribunal (NGT), which has banned movement of all diesel vehicles across the Rohtang Pass near Manali, on Thursday allowed such vehicles to ply till May 5 after the Himachal Pradesh government said it would conduct trials to explore feasibility of running CNG-fuelled buses.

The NGT allowed diesel vehicles to ply till May 5, the next date of hearing. Earlier, the ban was effective from May 1.

Additional Chief Secretary (Forests) Tarun Shridhar, who appeared before a bench headed by Justice U.D. Salvi, said the petroleum ministry has agreed to ply CNG-fuelled oil tankers across the Rohtang Pass, located in Kullu district, for transporting fuel in forward areas of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir.

The hearing was held in Shimla.

“The state has contacted Tata Motors Ltd. and Ashok Leyland Ltd. for supplying CNG vehicles but they expressed doubts about their success. They said they never plied such vehicles at such a high altitude. But the government will try to conduct their trials,” he said.

Referring to th all-terrain vehicles operating in Rohtang Pass area, the government informed the bench that they would be allowed to ply on specified routes to protect the nature from damaging fumes.

The tribunal in its earlier order had directed the state government to post adequate staff to ensure that diesel vehicles should not move towards Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), located 52 km from Manali.

It had asked the government to immediately take steps to ensure to-and-fro plying of CNG buses from Vashisht (in Manali) to Rohtang. These buses will be only for the purpose of tourism and no other tourist buses or private vehicles will be permitted to go to the pass.

“This condition should be enforced without default now, since there has been consistent non-compliance and no effective steps have been taken by the state in this regard,” it had said.

Excessive emission of carbon monoxide from the vehicles and huge quantities of trash left behind by tourists on the Rohtang Pass are taking a heavy toll on the snow cover, says the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a Nagpur based institute that has carried out studies on the impact of pollution on the local ecology.

Its report said the Rohtang Pass, located in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas, was visited by 18,000 to 20,000 tourists every day, mainly between May and September.

In May, the number of vehicles plying on the pass is around 3,200 every day, of which 80 percent are cars.

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