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11 Mar 2017

Green rule flout slur on hill tourism lodge

An earth-mover on the site for the tourist lodge 
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, March 10: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said it would approach the National Green Tribunal against the state tourism department for launching the construction of a tourist lodge on forest land at Tiger Hill "without necessary clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests".
Tourists flock to Tiger Hill, situated 14km from here and at an altitude of about 8000ft, to see the sunrise and Mount Kanchenjungha. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is keen to develop the spot that falls under the Senchel Wildlife Sanctuary.
Swaraj Thapa, the Morcha's study forum member, today said: "We are not against development. But it cannot be at the cost of environment. We have information that construction has started at Tiger Hill by the state government without necessary clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests. We will soon approach the National Green Tribunal against the construction."
The tribunal is based in New Delhi.
"Going by the foundations that are being laid, it can be said a huge concrete structure is coming up at Tiger Hill. Our sources have said the construction will be spread over an area of 12 to 18 hectare," said Thapa.
According to the 2002 census of the forest department, the Senchel sanctuary was home to 234 barking deer, 395 wild boar, 14 tahr, eight serow and 20 Himalayan black bear. The sanctuary is spread over 38.88 square km.
"We want to know whether environment impact assessment has been done and the detailed project report has taken care of environment concerns," said Thapa.
The tourist lodge is being built by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Limited.
Asked about the work, Sunil Agarwal, the joint director (tourism) of north Bengal, said: "It is one of the major tourism projects that we have taken up at Tiger Hill. We are building four cottages, 20 double-bedded rooms and a 20-bed dormitory. The total project cost is around Rs 40 crore and the work has already started."
Asked about the land and clearances, he said: "The project is not coming up on the forest land but on a plot of the tourism department. Earlier, we had a lodge on the site which is now damaged. We are using the same land. We have obtained all necessary clearances.
R.P. Saini, the additional principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), said over phone from Calcutta that the tourism department had taken necessary permission from the forest department.

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