On the day news came out that Rohtang Jot is finally going to be reopened for tourists in a couple of days, I am feeling a bit somber. Because as someone who began his touring stint with a trip to Manali; Manali and Rohtang Pass has a special place in my heart and I would like others to also experience the thrill of traveling to Rohtang Jot, like I did in 2004.
However, I feel today that experience is getting ruined by litigation by environmentalists, vested interests of taxi union and short sightedness of Himachal Government and Honorable High Court.
While the rule to stop vehicles from outside Himachal from going till Rohtang Jot has been in place for past couple of years. This year, administration has decided to make the road to Rohtang one way, allowing traffic from Manali to Rohtang to travel between 6am to 1pm and traffic from Rohtang to Manali to travel between 1pm to 5pm.
This essentially means, if as a tourist you hire a taxi to Rohtang Jot in the morning, then you cannot begin your journey back to Manali, till 1pm. This situation is further complicated by the fact that now there are no dhabas at Rohtang Jot or for that matter, at Marhi, due to a recent order passed by the Honorable High Court of Himachal Pradesh.
While the High Court had directed HPTDC to put in place mobile food vans for the tourists, as of now, HPTDC does not have the infrastructure in place to cater to thousands of tourists visiting Rohtang each day.
Even more worrying fact is that there are no toilets at Rohtang Jot!
While it is quite likely that taxis will be allowed to return to at least Marhi (otherwise it could prove quite disastrous for some people, due to high altitude), it isn’t clear whether or not there will enough toilets there to cater to tourists. After all, restaurants at Marhi not only provided a place to unwind and have some food, but also a much needed loo break. Of course HPTDC is aware of this situation and is evaluating the possibility of deploying mobile toilets at Rohtang and Marhi; it will likely take a few weeks if not months for this to happen.
In the meanwhile, tourists (especially ladies) will likely bear the brunt of these not so well thought out orders, which have been passed at the beginning of the peak tourist season.
While in the long run, Himachal Government would likely bring the situation under control and ensure that appropriate infrastructure is put in place to deal with the needs of tourists, in the short run, it could actually end up harming tourist sentiment and the ecology of Rohtang, thanks to thousands of people being forced to spend hours there, without any proper sanitation facilities.