Shimla: With Asian Development Bank (ADB) board having given its nod for a $ 93 million project for improving tourism infrastructure and facilities in Himachal, the officials here are gearing up to develop select natural and cultural heritage sites in the first phase.
Director tourism Arun Sharma confirmed having received a communiquÃ© from ADB approving the 10 year tourism development project that had been under consideration for a while.
Of the $ 93 million (about Rs 428 crore), the first tranche of $ 33 million dollars had been already been released,â€ he said.
Giving details Sharma said, â€œIn the first phase (2010-14), restoration work will be carried out on The Ridge and Town Hall in Shimla. Infrastructure would be developed at Naina Devi, Chintpurni and Brijeshwari pilgrimage tourism centers and restoration as well as infrastructure would be developed at Masrur, which is the only rock cut temple site in north India. Pong Dam wetland is also proposed to be developed as a tourist destination in the first phase.
Of the total funds, $ 83 million is to be spent on improving tourism infrastructure alone, he added.
Tourism officials disclosed that consultants for the executing the project had already been appointed and work on setting out procedures like preparing standard bidding documents had started.
The municipal corporation, which is housed in the Town Hall, has been asked to look for alternate accommodation so that restoration work on this landmark building could be carried out, said an official.
The investment program is part of a broad tourism development plan for four states, which include Himachal, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu that was drawn up by the Government of India with ADB and involves an overall external funding of $ 250 million.
On approving the project, Hafeez Rahman, ADB Director General, South Asia in a communiquÃ© said, â€œurban and rural communities will benefit from investments that expand tourism-related business opportunities and employment, and this can help mitigate urban and rural unemployment and poverty.â€
Keiichi Tamaki, ADBâ€™s urban development specialist added, â€œimproving infrastructure and services to international standards will raise the Indian tourism sectorâ€™s attractiveness, efficiency and competitiveness against other destinations.â€
The multi year project closes in 2020 and the loan having a 25-year term, with a grace period of 5-years and interest to be based on ADBâ€™s LIBOR lending facility. The four states and the central government have to contribute 30 percent investment ($107.1 million) for the $357.1 million tourism development project.