The Shimla Municipal Corporation will charge ‘green fee’ from the vehicles, which are not registered in Himachal, on their entry in Shimla. It is a kind of tax to facilitate clean and green Shimla to the tourists, the city being international tourist place. Shimla would be the second hill destination to introduce this concept after Manali.
The move is seemingly aimed at generating resources for the cash strapped Shimla MC, the second oldest municipality since the British era, as it would make the Corporation’s exchequer richer by around Rs 15 crore every year. There are some hitches in the software so the MC had to postpone the implementation for the time being.
The ‘green fee’, which would be reasonable (Rs 50-300 based on vehicle) is not a bad idea from the environment angle. But the larger question is that have we put in our bit to preserve the greens or the environs in Shimla, otherwise. All through the decades, Shimla is witness to deteriorating environs. The live city is a silent spectator to more and more concrete and lesser greenery. The number of vehicles in Shimla have long surpassed the parking places and there has been no concern for the issue, but for the recent court order which called for registeration of vehicle only if the person has a parking place. The traffic jams on Shimla roads in routine and the resultant pollution, which is more the outcome of slackness of authorities, is pathetic. There are no checks for pollution.
One solace is that limited number of vehicles are allowed on the sealed and restricted roads in Shimla to give some breathing space to the historic city. But that too becomes controversial at times with select people, who are mostly elite, getting the permits to drive nearer to the Mall. The Shimla MC, which should have played a major role in preserving the greens over the years, has been ruthlessly giving permissions for construction of houses just anywhere in Shimla.
The city cannot fulfill the water needs of all the people, who have been given connections and the hardly 30 per cent of the residents have sewerage connections in Shimla. The green areas in Shimla have shrunk much because they have been redefined numerous times, in contrast with the commitment of successive government’s to preserve the greens. The influential people have often managed permissions for construction in the earmarked green belts in Shimla even, with the government repeatedly relaxing the norms by forming one committee after the other to dilute the environment issue. And while giving permissions for the concrete all these years, the Town and Country Planning norms have been thrown to winds glaringly.
The result: The haphazard constructions on fragile hills give a bad look to the city and one can say, environmentally, Shimla is highly unsafe now especially as the entire area is earthquake prone. The tall Deodar trees are increasingly being done away with for construction , official or private, all across the city, leaving the Queen of Hills as a jungle of concrete.
Environment apart, even otherwise, the tourists who come to Shimla often cry for the basic facilities as much as the locals. The scant parking slots, traffic chaos, scant water and above all, the lack of guidance to plan the trip within the state capital and connecting package for outside-All this leaves the tourists disenchanted after the first tour. Often, the tourists coming to Shimla stay back for short duration and many vow not to come back again for total lack of ‘tourism culture’. In such a situation, the Shimla MC will now charge the green fee. “What are they offering us in lieu?” ask the tourists.
Probably, it is high time, the Shimla MC started showing concern to preserve the environs in Shimla with consistent and foolproof policies. Mere charging of ‘green fee’ would not serve the purpose. More so, the money collected through the ‘green fee’ by Corporation should be strictly utilized to give environment friendly outlook to Shimla for all times to come. Or it would just be another source of income for the fund starved MC to make for routine expenses, more like the Manali experience.
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