Himachal Govt. Announces New Measures To Safeguard Lahaul Valley Amidst Surge In Tourists

As tourism surges in Lahaul Valley following the opening of the Atal Tunnel, the state government has stepped in to protect the region's delicate ecosystem. A new committee and planning measures aim to ensure sustainable and safe tourism practices
Lahaul valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
Lahaul valley, Himachal Pradesh, IndiaShutterstock.com

In response to the rising influx of tourists in the Lahaul Valley in Himachal Pradesh, the state government has formed an 11-member committee led by the Director of Tourism to promote safe and sustainable tourism in the region. This initiative aims to protect the valley's delicate ecosystem, which has been under increasing pressure since the Atal Tunnel opened in October 2020.

The Atal Tunnel has significantly boosted tourism, drawing many visitors to Sissu and Koksar for snow activities. The surge in tourist numbers has raised environmental concerns, with experts warning about the region's limited capacity.

Kullu District Tourism Development Officer (DTDO) Sunayna Sharma emphasized the committee's role in regulating tourism. The committee will offer suggestions on traffic management, safety, and adventure activities to ensure tourism is conducted in a safe, efficient, and sustainable manner.

The iconic Atal Tunnel is an engineering marvel in the Himalayas
The iconic Atal Tunnel is an engineering marvel in the HimalayasShutterstock.com

Call For Official Measures 

In May 2023, the government also established the Atal Tunnel Planning Area to control land use and construction activities, particularly along highways. This measure aims to prevent unregulated expansion as new hotels and homestays emerge to meet growing demand.

The HP High Court has actively addressed ecological concerns. On March 6, the court directed the Town and Country Planning Principal Secretary to notify vending and non-vending zones in the Solang Special Area near Manali. This followed the court's earlier intervention regarding littering near the Atal Tunnel, prompted by a public interest litigation based on a news report from The Tribune in July 2022.

In response, state authorities were instructed to conduct clean-up drives and improve sanitation facilities, including providing adequate washrooms for visitors. Despite these efforts, plans by the Tourism Department to develop amenities such as a cafeteria, parking lot, pavilion, and selfie point at the South Portal of the Atal Tunnel have stalled. The project, costing INR 6 crore and covering 4 bighas, has been pending with the Ministry of Environment and Forests for over a year.

As the valley continues to attract more tourists, the newly formed committee's work will be crucial in balancing the region's economic benefits from tourism with the need to preserve its unique ecological and cultural heritage.

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