Manali taxi drivers oppose green cess, blame global warming

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear their petition

May 23, 2015 02:26 am | Updated 02:26 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Manali’s tourist taxi operators invoked ‘Black Carbon Theory,’ global warming and the Indian middle class idea of an annual holiday at the picturesque Himalayan hill station to successfully get the Supreme Court admit their case against the cess imposed on them by the National Green Tribunal.

Earlier this month, the NGT imposed an environment cess of Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 2, 500 per visit respectively for every petrol and diesel tourist vehicle from Manali going to the Rohtang Pass, reasoning that the tourist surge to the hill station posed a threat to its fragile ecology. The Him-Aanchal Taxi Operators Union said the cess was a huge blow to their livelihood.

Arguing before a vacation Bench led by Justice A.K. Sikri, the union said the environmental degradation seen at the foothills of the Himalayas was the result of global warming.

The taxi operators, represented by senior advocate Vibha Datta Makhija, also used the Black Carbon Theory as an explanation for the dwindling greenery of the Himalayas.

Middle class affected

The taxi operators then went on to explain how the cess not only affects them but hundreds of ordinary middle class families for whom a yearly trip to Manali was their only getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.

“But don’t middle class families now opt to fly to Singapore rather than take a taxi to Manali?” asked Justice Sikri.

“I am talking about the normal middle class,” Ms. Makhija responded.

When Justice Sikri asked why they couldn’t travel by bus, the senior advocate said these are families who can afford taxis rather than travel in a bus with 50 other persons.

“My tourist taxis are not responsible for the environment degradation. There are heavy vehicles like army trucks, commercial ones, which pollute more. Why am I singled out?” the counsel asked for the union.

The court agreed to hear the petition and issued notice to the State government, while posting the case for May 26.

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