I was traveling Spiti Valley in the past week and as we were coming back in night we found few vehicles turning past us around a blind corner at lightening speed without any horns and without any dippers. In fact, they didn’t need any horn as the sound coming out of the exhaust pipes were enough to let us know that some idiot is around the corner, so we should let him a safe passage by moving aside the gorge. The car forehead was full of lights flashing the high beams right into my eyes leaving me completely blind and just pray that they do not hit us. In a matter of seconds, two three vehicles passed us and after a sigh of relief I started back rolling on the road with much more caution after the black smoke emitted from them settled down.
I immediately recalled few other cars we spotted in the day identical in cosmetics and who had a banner/sticker of a famous Motor Rally on them. Down the road aside a tea stall, two three more were parked with same traits. I can now easily co-relate they cannot be other than the participants of such gala annual rally conducted on roof of the world. I may be wrong in my assumption but chances of being correct are way too much after whatever we heard from locales/villagers about the these Motor Rallies in the past. Earlier I had great praise for the participants of such rallies but after hearing about the experiences and witnessing few instances myself this time, I am strongly feel that it is a gimmick that is actually cursing the mother nature in Himalayas.
With due respect to the skills of such passionate drivers, I feel that these motor rallies are actually participating in the depletion of the environment no matter what they boast about the guidelines and standards they adhere to. Practically, they are upsetting the lives of both flora and fauna and including the men all around the circuit. I am not sure how many of us agree to the fact that being an skilled driver it gives him/her the rights to –
Zoom past any other vehicle around the blind corner at high speeds without sounding any horn or using dipper.
Use high beams with other cosmetic flashing lights/accessories in the middle of night and zeroing vision of other person coming from the other side.
Litter high content of dust and smoke (black carbon aerosols) in the environment as they zoom pass the roads depleting the growth of plants/herbs etc and making glacier melt even faster
Produce high noise levels which cause villagers to wake up in the wee hours and disturb the fauna around the region to escape in search of safety path. These native people, wild animals and birds are not accustomed to such unfamiliar high levels of noise and most importantly, for many of them it comes as a shock or surprise.
Run on the wet pasture lands of cold desert biosphere and damage them such that the lives of fauna as well as flora around the region gets disturbed.
And the list goes on…
I guess being a participant of such an honored event and plus a passionate, skilled driver these participants should take the ownership of saving the environment and respecting it in all terms. They should infact have the highest civic sense at least in terms when driving is concerned. Unfortunately, I feel sorry for them after going by the feedback of villagers, few reports below and few minor incidents which we witnessed ourselves. It appears that they lack complete sense of responsibility towards mother nature and are just present there to boast of some cosmetic skills of their machines and their control on them 🙁 … Ironically, you will find ample of machines with pasted slogans such as “Save Water, Save Environment”, “Save environment, save wildlife” etc. Sad but I guess true that they should work upon what they actually paste on their machines and respect the mother nature in totality.
In the end, given below are some reports that compliments some of the views presented here and how these rallies are acting as a curse to Himalayan nature and its surroundings along with lack of responsibility on display.
External Source: Raid-de-Himalaya leaves villagers panicky
Manali / Keylong: October 12, 2011
The noise created by the high speed of over 80-odd rally vehicles woke up villagers from their slumber in Vashisht, Nehru Kund, Palchan and Kothi at around 3 am today before the Raid-de-Himalaya invaded the buffer zone of the cold desert biosphere, sending “grazing blue sheep, Tibetan ibex and men-shy snow leopard running for cover in the snow-bound Lahaul valley”.
Voicing villagers’ concerns, scientists rubbished the claims of the rally organisers that they were adhering to the pollution norms prescribed by the Association Internationale des Automobile, a body that governs motor sports in the world.
Dr JC Kuniyal, a senior scientist at the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, said, “High-speed vehicles produce cyclonic localised activity in a high-altitude region. Particulate matter below 10 microgram and finer particles of 2.5 microgram get deposited on herbs, shrubs and plants, and stunt their growth.”
Dr Kuniyal added that black carbon aerosols are generated due to “less burning of petrol and diesel” because of less availability of oxygen in a high-altitude region. “The aerosols stay on in the atmosphere for weeks and get deposited on glaciers, speeding up the melting process,” he added.
“I was fast asleep when suddenly at around 3 am the entire family woke up in panic due to the noise; we thought somebody had attacked the village,” said Radha Devi and Ved Ram of the Palchan-Kothi area, where the “tourist traffic pollution” has hit a staggering 264 microgram per cubic metre mark, recorded by the GB Pant institute on June 30.
“Then we saw a large number of vehicles moving at ‘lightning speed’ towards the Rohtang Pass one by one, creating a huge noise,” villagers resented.
“The high court has ruled that no loudspeakers and a noise level over 72 decible is permitted after 10 pm till 6 am; then how is the government violating this norm in villages?” they asked.
The rally vehicles, with a noise level exceeding 90 decible, woke up villagers at Koksar, Talining, Sissu, Shashan at around 5 am. “The rally vehicles sprayed heaps of dust and half-burnt carbon aerosols on patches of snow and houses on the Tailing-Gondla-Tandi-Keylong stretch,” said Prem Lal, who, along with other villagers, wanted to show black flags in protest to the rally, but were caught napping.
The rally passed through Jispa, Darcha, Suraj Tal, the source of the Bhaga river, Bara Lacha La, where it entered the cold desert biosphere reserve. The stretch from Bara Lacha La to Serchu, which is the rally route, comprises the buffer zone of the biosphere. “The rally organisers have no permission from the cold desert biosphere authorities, which come under the Ministry of Environment and Forests,” sources said. Ironically, the rally vehicles carry stickers like “Save environment, save wildlife”.
“This is the country’s only cold desert biosphere with an altitude ranging from 3,300 m to 6,600 m, notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests on August 28, 2009, to protect and preserve its highly endangered species of snow leopard, Tibetan wild ass, Siberian ibex and over 20 species of high-altitude rare birds and butterflies and over 100 species of rare medicinal plants and herbs,” said Dr SS Samant, a scientist.
External Source: Raid-de-Himalaya hits green tax roadblock
Manali, October 11, 2011
After getting a lukewarm response from pollution-wearied local residents, hoteliers and eco-friendly adventure sports promoters, the high-profiled 13th Raid-de- Himalaya motor rally today hit a major green tax roadblock as organisers of the event had not paid the green tax imposed by the high court on vehicles carrying non-Himachal numbers entering this tourist town.
The non-payment of green tax in advance by the organisers has exposed the casual way this motor event is organised even after kicking off its 13th editions, rued sports enthusiasts.
The Manali Nagar Panchayat and the District Tourism Officer expressed ignorance about the event even as Chief Minster PK Dhumal kicked off the rally officially yesterday from Shimla.
Secretary-general, National Winter Games Federation, and president, Paragliding Association, Manali, Roshan Thakur said they only promoted eco-friendly non-powered adventure sports. Checking pollution was a task of the government and organisers, he added.
President, Manali Nagar Panchayat, Rup Singh Negi said the organisers had not taken an NOC from the panchayat.
“Some hoteliers do benefit as their rooms are booked for the rally”, added Gajendra Thakur, president, Manali Hoteliers Association.
Most of the vehicles entered this town on the left bank of the Beas on the Kullu-Naggar road rather than through the main green tax barrier on NH-21 near Manali. “There was nobody to charge the green tax on the left bank entry point there,” sources revealed.
In fact, there are over 250 odd vehicles participating in the rally and most of them are non-Himachal vehicles coming from Chandigarh, Gurgaon, Delhi, Bangalore, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
District Tourism Officer-cum-SDM, Manali, Balbir Thakur said he was not aware about the rally as he was busy on Dasehra duty in Kullu.
DC, Kullu, BM Nanta said rally participants or organisers would have to deposit the green tax as it was imposed by the high court on non-Himachali number vehicles.
Vice-president, Himalayan Motors Association, which is organising the event, Manjiv Bhalla did not respond to calls on his mobile to get organisers’ views.