Shimla: With Alfred Ford’s, a great grandson of automobile pioneer Henry Ford, plans for setting up a $ 300 million Himalayan Ski resort facing resistance after a change of government in Himachal, the promoters maintain that the project venture was mooted at the behest of the state for creating employment opportunities by setting up a world class tourism project.
Himalayan Ski Village Managing Director John Sims, told My Himachal News that the company was invited by local businessmen of Manali, the panchayat of Palchan as well as the Himachal officials to create employment and business opportunities for the people through development of a world class tourism destination.
Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in an interaction with media recently stated “the project its present shape was not acceptable to the government. We would review the whole project.”
He said that the project was not allotted in a transparent manner, it had not obtained submitted an environment impact assessment report or obtained any clearance thereof and also needed to have a clearance from defence point of view, because of the projects proximity to an international border.
Sims maintains that a detailed environment study of the project site has been done by leading environmental scientists and an environment impact assessment report had been submitted before the central ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) for approval.
“No industrial or tourism project in India has ever submitted themselves to such a rigorous environmental study, which we have undertaken for setting up the proposed ski village project in the heights of Manali,” claims Sims.
“The project will involve no displacement of people. If state officials wish to have any ‘transparent’ review, we are ready to comply,” he adds.
About obtaining defense clearance for the project, Sims says that the promoters have not been informed by any government agency that Kullu valley is deemed a militarily sensitive zone or a border area or that a tourism project required such a clearance.
“Not one other project in the Kullu Valley has ever been required to seek this type of clearance, although there are many other projects there,” he says. Still if it is required, Himalayan Ski Village management would abide by it, he adds.
The proposed investment of $ 300 million is considered to be one of the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) tourism projects in the country. It would take about three years to complete the project after work begins. “We aspire to hold nothing less than the Winter Olympics at Himalayan Ski Village,” said Sims.
Even though the previous congress government signed a memorandum of understanding and followed it up with an implementation agreement for the proposed ski village project, the venture soon ran into rough weather with Kullu valley oracles holding a conclave opposing setting up of the project in the vicinity of sacred sites.
The detailed project report submitted to Himachal authorities, last April proposes to set up 700 five star rooms, 300 chalets and a gondola taking visitors upto 4,300 meters heights that would create employment for about 3000 people.