Rohtang Pass fears ensuing Disaster due to Traffic Surge

Rohtang Pass, which attracts thousands of tourists every year and is a vital link between Kulu and Lahaul & Spiti valleys in Himachal Pradesh, is facing environmental concerns due to surge in the number of tourists and a proportionate increase in the number of vehicles.

Tourist Vehicles at Rohtang Pass

Tourist Vehicles at Rohtang Pass (Image Courtesy, Aman Gupta)

The Environmentalists fear that the rising number of Vehicles might accelerate the melting rate of glaciers resulting in increased level of water in rivers originating from it.

The Rohtang Pass hosts many more visitors now than it did a decade ago as rising prosperity in India’s middle class brings more tourists to the hill town. In summer months, more than 2,000 vehicles negotiate the narrow mountain road daily, making it resemble a clogged city street.

Traffic jams are common as military vehicles, trucks, and goods carriers try to navigate the tight roads and rough terrain, compounded by snow and ice at certain points and the large number of tourists vehicles.

After recent Uttarakhand havoc, this picturesque valley tucked in Himalayas is fearing a similar disaster in near future.

A senior scientist at the G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, J.C. Kuniyal, who is studying the Rohtang region, said temperatures in the Kullu valley have risen by about point six degrees centigrade. That is in keeping with the global trend.

But more worrying, said Kuniyal, is the impact of uncontrolled tourism on the fragile mountain ecology.

“I have seen that the regions which are facing a high influx due to floating population or human activity, there aerosols are increasing,” Kuniyal said. “These are supposed to be the main causes to melt the Himalayan glaciers.”

The aerosols come both from diesel exhausts of vehicles and burning of wood for cooking by local people. The smoke deposits black soot on the glaciers, which makes them absorb more heat.

Rohtang Pass is the only road link between Kulu valley and the valleys of Lahaul and Spat. NH 21, which connects Manali to Leh passes through this pass. During the Kargil war it served as an alternate route for military supplies, due to the blockade of  NH 1A. Government is creating an 8.5km long Rohtang Tunnel bypassing this pass which would allow all weather safe travel through this area.

(additional inputs from VOA News Report)