Panel to hear Himalayan Ski Village opposers

hskiShimla: With the government yet to decide about setting up the controversial Himalayan Ski Village in higher reaches of Manali, a high powered government committee is to do a spot inspection and record resident views early next month, government officials disclosed.

Confirming as much Manisha Nanda, tourism secretary said, “the committee appointment by the government to review the project proposal will visit inspect the proposed site sometime next month and also hear the views of residents and others.”

Nanda who head the committee added, “after finalizing the date it would be made public for all who are concerned to record their views during the visit.’

The Himachal High Court had dismissed a public interest litigation opposing the project after the government had assured to court to review the project before taking any decision about it.

A committee to consider the issue was constituted which besides the secretary tourism included the revenue secretary, principal chief conservator forests, director environment, and deputy commissioner Kullu.

The committee in July did hear the promoters of the company and had asked them to respond to various issues concerning local rights, environment, water, project area, investments and shareholding pattern.

“We have received a response to the queries raised,” said Nanda.

Another important issues under consideration before the committee includes relaxing land laws under section 118 of HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act that prohibits sale of agriculture land to any non-state resident as the promoters propose to sell or lease out developed plots on build, operate, own (BOO) basis for setting up hotels, villas and market area.

Alfred Ford of the Ford Motor Company through a letter of interest had shown interest in setting up a ski village in the Himalayas in April 2004. The Himachal government subsequently entered into a MoU with Himalayan Ski Village in December 2005 and signed an implementation agreement in June 2006 for a $135 million high end ski resort project.

Then, as an opposition party, BJP opposed the project outrightly demanding that it be scrapped. Fearing swamping of their rights, lands and sacred places, residents held an assembly of 164 local deities, in February 2006, termed ‘Jagti Puch’ where the Kullu Devtas through their oracles rejected the project. In turn two public interest litigations were also filed before the courts.

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