Centre read to give CNG for tourist vehicles, SC told

New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) The central government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it was ready to supply CNG for tourist vehicles plying between Manali and Rohtang Pass but Himachal Pradesh has to back it up with a sustainable business model.

There was no immediate relief for the tourists taxi operators who are against an NGT order modified by the apex court that not more than 1,200 tourist and private cars can go to Rohtang Pass every day.

The option of CNG being used as fuel for the tourist taxis is being worked out to save the ecology of highest located tourist spot from the impact of unregulated flow of tourist vehicles.

About 35 lakh tourists go there during the five months starting mid-May to October.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the apex court vacation bench comprising Justice Abhay Manhor Sapre and Justice Ashok Bhushan that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had told the Himachal Pradesh government its willingness to supply the CNG.

But this would not be viable without a sustainable business model that has to take care of overhead costs to make clean fuel affordable.

Saying the entire issue of the funding of the capital expenditure of Rs.17.50 crore for setting up of CNG facilities for supplying clean fuel to tourist taxis had arisen because the initial model suggested by the Himachal government was not viable, the court was told that it needed to be re-worked.

The Solicitor General told the court that the Himachal Pradesh government was yet to respond to suggestions to rework the business model.

Opposing the restrictions imposed by the NGT and the apex court on the movement of vehicular traffic between Manali and Rohtang Pass, the Him Aanchal Taxi Operators Union questioned the rational behind allowing only 800 petrol and 400 diesel cars per day.

Initially the NGT had permitted 1,000 vehicles including tourist and private ones to go to Rohtang Pass but the apex court hiked it to 1,200.

Questioning the rational of allowing just 1,200 tourist taxis and private vehicles to go to Rohtang Pass every day, senior counsel Vibha Dutta Makhija wondered how could a ban be imposed on her clients while there was no ban on diesel vehicles in the country or in Himachal Pradesh.

Telling the court that it was like placing the cart before the horse, Makhija said the air pollution in Rohtang Pass was much lower than the permissible levels and what it was in other parts of the country.

She said the tourist taxi operators had switched over to Bharat III emission engines and had taken loans from financial institutions and had to pay them back.

The bench had earlier asked the Him Aanchal Taxi Operators Union to find some via media to deal with the problem for this year. The matter was adjourned for Monday.

–IANS

pk/mr

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