Shimla: Delayed by over three years, promoters of the multi-million dollar Himalayan Ski Village (HSV) project have moved the court and pre-empted the Himachal government from scrapping the tourism venture altogether.
John Sims, managing director HSV let Hill Post know, “we had to move court as we were not being understood correctly.”
“As we were not getting a fair treatment, we have sought the courts shelter in getting the government to honour its agreements,” said Sims.
“After having spent Rs 50 crore on research, planning and engineering on the Himalayan Ski Village project and the over three year delay in starting the project has certainly disappointed the promoters, but the interest is still there,” he added.
In response to the petition moved by HSV, the Himachal High Court on Thursday served notice on the state barring it from cancelling the Ski Village project. “The government have been asked to file a reply within 4 weeks and the case comes up hearing on 14th May,” said Rakeshwar Lal, legal counsel for HSV.
Proposed by Alfred Ford, a relation of the owners of Ford Motor Company, in March 2004 when there was a congress government in the state.
An amount of Rs 75 lakhs was deposited, which included Rs 25 lakhs as earnest money and Rs 50 lakhs towards Destination Himachal Fund, after san Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 9th December 2005 and an Implementation Agreement (IA) was signed on 5th June 2006.
Billed at $ 350 million dollars, it was counted as the largest foreign direct investment proposal in the tourism sector. However, the project has soon mired in controversy from the start proposal as resident of Kullu valley, where it was proposed to be set up, opposed it vehemently.
Two public interest litigations opposing the project were filed in High Court, which were ultimately dropped after a BJP government assumed power in January 2008, who in turn let the court know they would like to re-examine the project and a committee was appointed for the purpose.
Headed by principal secretary tourism, the committee held a public hearing at the project site on 6th June, 2009 and in its report to the government stated that the “local people openly rejected this project.”
The report concluded that the Detailed Project Report for the project was incomplete as it did not include an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) which the company was bound to obtain before any lease of government or forest land could be made.
The report also does mention that the government “the right to forfeit the bank guarantee and to terminate the IA (Implementation Agreement) and if feel appropriate, invite global tenders for the project.” Based on the report, the government had in January served a cancellation notice on HSV.
The ski village proposes to construct 170 seven star rooms, 1000 four star rooms and 100 chalets on 93.1 hectares of land, of which 16.3 hectares was to be on government or forest lands near Palchan village of Manali.