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NGT declines to relax ban on tourist activities in Rohtang

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Photo: http://www.rohtangla.com/
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Shimla, (IANS) The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday declined to relax its recent order banning all tourist activities in and around the Rohtang Pass overlooking the picturesque tourist resort Manali, to check environmental degradation.

Photo Credit: http://www.rohtangla.com/
Photo Credit: http://www.rohtangla.com/

A two-member bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, issued a show-cause notice to the Himachal government, asking them about the steps initiated to prohibit commercial activities after its July 7 order.

Listing the case for next hearing on August 13, the bench asked the government to come out with a rehabilitation policy for the people, mostly from the hospitality industry, going to be affected by the ban.

Earlier, the tribunal banned horse-riding, snow-biking, paragliding, and plying of snow scooters at Rohtang, Solang, and Marhi and also ordered closure of eateries and kiosks.

The tribunal said the ban on tourist activity would help check environmental degradation and melting of the glaciers in the region which were receding at the rate of 20 metres a year since 1986.

“Except water, everything else should be prohibited in and around the Rohtang Pass,” it observed.

Citing an experts’ status report, the tribunal said heavy increase in tourist inflow was adversely affecting the glaciers and environment.

“The entire snow on the roadside from Manali to Rohtang had turned black. The pollution and high emission have even blackened the snow at nearby mountains. The orders of the tribunal are being abused at their will. Prima facie, we have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the state has failed to carry out the directions issued by the tribunal,” the report said.

“There is a right to tourism, but it has to be within the framework of the Constitution where the fundamental right of the public at large (to life and liberty) in terms of Article 21 has to take precedence,” the tribunal said.

The tribunal has also limited the entry of diesel and petrol tourist vehicles to the Rohtang Pass to 1,000 per day.

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Researchers Look for Alternatives To Chemical Fertilizers for a Cleaner Environment

Too many nutrients in the water leads to poor water quality by causing hazardous algal blooms.

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Fertilizers
A farming woman spreads fertilizer in a paddy field. Flickr

Fertilizer is made of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Chemical fertilizers require huge amounts of energy to produce. But there are other, natural and more readily available sources.

The University of Michigan, with support from the National Science Foundation, is working at making our water cleaner, and our agriculture more sustainable, by capturing one of those sources, rather than flushing it down the toilet.

On a hot summer afternoon near Brattleboro, Vermont, farmer Dean Hamilton has fired up his tractor and is fertilizing his hay field — with human urine.

It takes a bit of time to get used to, says environmental engineer Nancy Love.

“I’ve been surprised at how many people actually get beyond the giggle factor pretty quickly,” she said, “and are willing to listen.”

Fine-tuning the recycling

Rich Earth Institute, a nonprofit, is working with Love and her team. Abraham Noe-Hays says they are fine-tuning new methods to recycle urine into fertilizer.

“There’s a great quote by Buckminster Fuller about how pollution is nothing but the resources that we’re not harvesting, and that we allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value,” he said.

Harvesting the resource of urine — which is, after all, full of the same nutrients as chemical fertilizer — will fix two problems at once: eliminate waste and create a natural fertilizer.

The Rich Earth Institute has been using urine as fertilizer since 2012. Kim Nace says they collect about 26,000 liters a year, thanks to a loyal group of dedicated donors.

“We now have people who have some source-separating toilets in their homes. We also have people who have 55 gallon (200-liter) barrels where they collect and then we transport to our farms, and we’ve also got a large urine depot,” Nace said.

`fertilizers
Fertilizers. Wikimedia Commons

They pasteurize the urine to kill any microbes, and then it is applied directly onto hay fields like Hamilton’s.

Next level of project

Now that they’ve partnered with the University of Michigan, Love says they’re looking to take their project to the next level.

“There are three things we really are trying to do with the urine in this kind of next phase. We’re trying to concentrate it. We’re trying to apply technologies to reduce odor, and we’re trying to deal with trace contaminants like the pharmaceuticals,” she said.

Dealing with pharmaceuticals is an important issue. Heat urine kills germs but has no effect on chemicals like drugs that pass through our bodies.

“We know pharmaceuticals are a problem for aquatic organisms and water systems,” Love said. “It’s debatable about the impact on human health at very, very low levels. Independent of that, I think most people would prefer that they not be in their food.”

Fertilizers
Farmer Scott Halpin is facing another year of high prices for seed and fertilizer, and low prices for the corn and soybeans his family is planting on farmland outside Morris, Illinois.

21st century infrastructure

For Love, this is all about redesigning our wastewater infrastructure for the 21st century. Too many nutrients in the water leads to poor water quality by causing hazardous algal blooms.

“Our water emissions are going into very sensitive water bodies that are vulnerable to these nutrient loads,” she said. “We need to change that dynamic. And if we can capture them and put them to a beneficial use, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Also Read: Common Plastic Chemical May Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Their efforts could make agriculture greener and our waterways cleaner. (VOA)