The practice of throwing litter into the Chandra Bhaga rivers rampant: Himachal Pollution Control Board

The Scenic beauty of Himachal Pradesh started posing a new challenge to the district administration, pollution control board, and local self-government as tons of non-biodegradable garbage are dumped by Tourists daily in the state.

With the upgradation of infrastructure like four lanes, and round-the-year vehicular facilities to Atal Tunnel Rohtang not only has increased the footfall of tourists in the state but non-compliance of advisory by the tourists, hospitality industry, and transporters increased the headache of local administration and other concerned authorities.

A press release issued by Mr. Apoorv Devgan (IAS) Member Secretary, Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board stated that during their field inspection, it was found that the practice of throwing litter into the Chandra and Bhaga rivers is rampant.

 It was worthwhile to mention here that Chanda and Bagha are glacial rivulets that flow on the North bank of the Rohtang tunnel mainly in the Lahaul-Spiti district. Two snow rivulets converged into Chander Bagha near Tandi in Lahaul Subdivision which was the main tributary of Chenab. 

The official informed us that pollution not only causing challenges to the scenic beauty of Manali-RAT (Rohtang Attal Tunnel) – Keylong on the side of NH-3 but with the beginning of summer tourist season, the Khoksar and Sissu areas are witnessing a heavy influx of tourists, consequently more commercial establishments and increasing floating population since the opening of Atal Tunnel on the Manali-Leh highway. There is a huge spurt in waste generation, which require scientific disposal.

 Currently, one vehicle of SADA  transports the garbage from Lahaul Valley to the Manali waste treatment plant located at Rangri. Further, there were complaints that the practice of throwing litter into the Chandra and Bhaga rivers. 

A team lead by Member Secretary, SDM Keylong, Regional Officer of Regional Office SPCB Kullu, Pradhan of Khoksar Panchayat, Up-Praddhan of Sissu Panchayat conducted field inspections of MRF (Material Recovery Facility) waste management site at Khoksar of Lahul Block.

The second inspection was carried out in and around tourist facilities at the Sissu Helipad. The Member Secretary informed that rampant littering is posing a threat to the riverine ecology of Lahul Valley. Member Secretary gave strict directions to the local authorities to impose fines, if necessary, on tourists as well as local residents found littering the tourist places.

The team directed the local administration to launch a cleanliness drive within one month to clear the litter in and around tourist facilities and undertake mass awareness activities among tourists, the local public, and commercial establishments especially among Dhabas regularly so as to keep the area clean.

Single-use plastic (SUP) was banned on July 1,  2022, in the state but some of the hospitality units and Dhabas did not effectively follow the instructions. The team also confiscated some items of SUP from local commercial establishments as well. 

It was heartening to note that local people and commercial establishments have started using bio-degradable cutleries, and cups in their day-to-day life as the implementation of the SUP ban otherwise was found satisfactory in the valley. 

He said that local administration was asked to ensure and persuade hospitality units and other stakeholders to segregate their wastes for scientific disposal. 

Member Secretary directed all stakeholders to inculcate segregation of waste in their behavior for effective waste management.

Member Secretary directed the authorities to expedite the transfer of the Material Recovery Facilities site in favor of the concerned Panchayat so that the MRF facility is developed at the earliest. 

Himachal Pradesh High Court also has taken cognizance of the matter of littering at Atal Tunnel Rohtang recently as the direction was issued to Deputy Commissioner and SP Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti to ensure the Management of cleanliness and garbage disposal around the ATR.

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