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June 07, 2011
 
Brakes On Himachal’s Eco-Tourism Projects


http://www.indianexpress.com/news/brakes-on-himachals-ecotourism-projects/800286/

7 June 2011

Ashwani Sharma, Shimla:


An inquiry ordered by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal into eco-tourism projects, which are facing charges relating to violations of the Forest Conservation Act, has confirmed glaring lapses in privatisation of the prime forest properties and sites but the government doesn’t find these lapses a ground to scrap projects.

There are going to be two immediate fall-outs of the inquiry—one in case of five existing eco-tourism project and second in connection with five other eco-tourism projects, which have been put on hold in view of the controversies and lapses detected by the inquiry.

The forest department had invited Expression of Interests (EOIs) five new forest sites/properties,including forest guest houses at Shoja, Kharapathar and Thiryund, which now will be withheld. More than 100 applications were received for these projects along with a security deposit of Rs 15,000 each.

In case of the existing projects, the government has asked the local Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) to undertake demarcations of the sites and ensure that the project activity is restricted within one hectare of the area. All permanent structures, which the promoters have raised on the forest land, whether within an earmarked project area, or outside, will be demolished.

Simultaneously, Additional Chief Secretary (Forest and Environment) Sudipto Rai has written to Secretary Union Ministry of Environment and Forests requesting him to frame guidelines under the Forest Conservation Act for “regulating” Eco-tourism projects so that state government moves ahead with the new projects.

“I have sent a proposal for consideration of hon'ble Chief Minister to straighten the guidelines under state's eco-tourism policy to make the whole process transparent and the promoters should be made to restrict their activities within certain fixed area of the project”, Rai confirmed. He ruled out possibilities of scrapping any of the existing projects but said lots of corrections will be undertaken to ensure strict compliance of the Forest Conservation Act.