Rohtang Pass is a high mountain pass on the Pir-Panjal mountain ranges of the Himalayas and at 3980m is a natural divide between the green Kullu valley and the arid Lahaul & Spiti valleys. This pass is best accessible from Manali, being only 51 kms away.
Rohtang Pass is just not a mountain pass on Pir-Panjal Himalayas, but over the years it has become a very powerful tourism brand which attracts millions of tourists and has been generating enormous amounts of revenue directly or indirectly, not just for the local tourism industry but for entire Himachal and the Government. Some estimates puts the tourism value and revenue generated by brand Rohtang Pass to be as high as 50% of the entire tourist movement to Himachal.
Rohtang as a brand has become synonymous with the Himalayas, spell bounding scenic views, adventure, thrill and snow. Rohtang is also the first pass which has to be crossed on the extremely beautiful journey to Leh which is like a coaster ride crossing over several high Himalayan passes and valleys to reach Ladakh. Rohtang as a tourism product is a mix of equally attractive products like Himalayas, snow, waterfalls, scenic views, valley, glaciers, meadows and forest.
Rohtang Pass or I would say the entire Rohtang mountain massif needs to be developed as a complete destination in itself. We need to harness strengths of this entire mix of bouquet of tourism products to develop them into an astoundingly attractive and environmentally sustainable destination. There is an urgent need to develop activities and Nature Appreciation Points centered around these products and create a beautiful environmentally sustainable model. We need to design a community based model so that the generations to come may reap benefits of Rohtang. A world class environmentally and local community sustainable model has to be developed. We all in Himachal and locals from Manali region in particular have been bestowed with this immensely powerful property and we all need to add more value to it to be presented to our future generations.
Tourism is a great force multiplier and generates employment and helps increase the per capita income of the area. Additionally, tourism also increases the revenue of the government. Tourism as an economic activity needs to add to our efforts to preserve nature and ecology of our entire area and thereby adding to our efforts of Sustainable Development.
I have always been of the view that Manali as a destination has almost reached its peak performance and needs a Relaunch 2.0 which can be assisted by harnessing the potential of Rohtang mountain massif and converting it into a tourist magnet lined with several attractions and activities.
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A few possible development areas may be listed as:
- This model has to be centered around generating employment for local community only and local rights need to be addressed in every aspect of development.
- Picturesque scenic views are the main strength of Manali – Rohtang circuit. We need to explore to harness this strength and create vantage points facing the valley, mountains, waterfalls etc. We may call them “Nature Enjoyment Points”.
- Such Nature Enjoyment Points should have facilities of sitting areas, standing observatory, ample parking spaces and washrooms. No eating joints to be allowed at such points to help in preserving such points and addressing the issue of garbage generation.
- Rohtang mountain has several high points providing breathtaking views. We can create some sky-walks at some of these adventurous points like a cliff or a waterfall.
- All such structures thus created have to be permanent fixtures and not disposable or temporary units.
- Toilet facilities to be created at every point, having benches for children and old people. All toilets should be disabled-friendly.
- Every winter a huge deposit of snow happens at Raani Nalla which converts into a glacier. BRO has to struggle a lot to clear this glacier mass while opening the road. If this snow cover is left undisturbed, we can see & experience snow here throughout the year stretching into peak summer also and over the years this can develop into a huge glacier. We suggest exploring the possibility of constructing a bridge at this point for the traffic so that this glacier is left untouched and it is developed as a glacier point.
- We need to develop separate pony trails where ever possible on the way towards Rohtang and possible points can be Kothi, Gulaba, Marhi, Rohtang Pass
- We recommend looking into the possibility to develop the old Rohtang road as an exclusive ATV circuit which would add to local employment generation and adventure for tourists.
- At Rohtang Pass, golf carts may be introduced to ply on fixed paths or routes for tourists to be taken to high vantage points
- The National Green Tribunal had taken a note of pollution created by vehicle emission at Rohtang Pass and decided to regulate the number of vehicles that can visit in a single day. I’m sure NGT will not have an issue with Zero emission vehicles and the Government should offer incentives to local transporters to motivate them to switch to Electric vehicles and add to the vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister. On this entire route, fast charging points to be installed to facilitate growth of such e-vehicles.
- At some exciting point or connecting two cliffs, a long hanging-bridge should also be installed which would add to the adventure for all visitors.
- Rohtang mountain has some very rare and beautiful high altitude flowers and is among the places having the highest diversity of flora. People from around the world used to frequent Rohtang to study and enjoy the beauty of such flowers specially in the months of July – August. Special tours based on flora of Rohtang should be conducted and local youths need to be trained and educated to conduct such tours.
- We may also look to create a set of zip-lines at some exciting points to add to the thrill.
- Kothi and Gulaba to have a circular forest trail. A person can get down from a vehicle at one place, walk across and his vehicle can meet at the end point. Develop it downhill to facilitate easy walking and maximize views of nature.
- This Kothi and Gulaba walking trail can also be developed into a nature park with lots of trees, herbs and shrubs of Himalayas and Himalayan Zoo. Educational walking trips need to be developed on this route.
- Sagu waterfall circuit to be promoted for pony and walking. However the pony trail should end at least 150-200 m before the fall which would preserve the immediate environment near the waterfall.
- There are a lot of horses serving tourists on this circuit. Horse dung can be easily collected and treated to be converted into manure.
- Paragliding launch site and landing site to be developed and managed by the Paragliding Association to keep it well managed and regulated.
- Marked points for developing huts or eating joints. Eating joints should not be allowed at Nature Appreciation Points or any activity point which would enable in managing garbage with mandatory clauses linked to the owner of eating joints.
- Need to develop parking at Rohtang, Marhi and Gulaba for minimum 2000 to 5000 vehicles subject to availability of land or by way of multi level parking to preserve the land bank.
- Travelers now are ready to experience adventure and exciting options even if it involves extreme conditions. Winter tourism can be another exciting offer on this mountain massif by developing winter trekking, igloo accommodation parks, snowboarding & skiing and experience of a near Arctic experience.
- Multi specialty ambulances manned by a para medic to be stationed at a few points.
- Local village youths need to be trained in all aspects of tourism and nature. All youths may thus be employed as tourism police and even lifeguards or a rapid response team for any kind of rescue.
- All infrastructure to be developed as permanent structure following only local architecture designs to maintain the natural ecology in the area.
- All such infrastructure thus developed can be self sustainable in terms of revenue generation and may require only an entry ticket into this destination like you do for any amusement park.
The Atal Rohtang Tunnel has already opened for tourists. Rohtang Tunnel is all-together different concept and care should be taken not to mix it with Rohtang Pass. I agree this tunnel is going to be a huge crowd puller and is going to benefit tourism apart from serving the security concerns of India. There would be tourists who would like to cover Rohtang both ways with a choice of activities available or tunnel both ways or even one-way experience each of Rohtang and tunnel. Regulating the market demand should not be our area of concern but we should remain focused managing the supply side. Atal Rohtang Tunnel has to be promoted and developed as a completely separate product and hence no regulation or rule to be framed to mix to match both of these.
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If care can be taken by the State and Central Governments to merge their synergies, Rohtang mountain massif can easily develop into a fun filled destination that each visitor may wish to visit again and again. Possibilities are huge and without using any machine power in any of these activities, smoking out tons of carbon and other harmful gases, we can convert Rohtang mountain massif into an ideal ecologically sustainable destination. I hope you all would agree that nature based activities as listed above would not require any huge investments on the government’s part but yes, it does need a mountain sized will.
About the author: Ritesh Sood is running Tour Operator Company Himalayan Saga since 1999. Based in Manali and driven with a strong desire to establish Himachal in Inbound market, Ritesh has introduced many creative ideas, experiences & products. He started a motorcycle touring company Motosaga in year 2011 to introduce adventure of touring circuits of Himalayas among the younger generation and in 2016, Ritesh stared a Boutique hotel ShivAdya which has been rated among Top 25 Small hotels of India by trip advisor for past two years.