Vivek Chhetri and Avijit Sinha, TT, Darjeeling, March 15: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today produced a letter from the forest department which had earlier claimed that the land on which the tourism department was constructing a tourist lodge at Tiger Hill belonged to Senchel Wildlife Sanctuary.
The letter goes against the claim of the tourism department that it owns the land on which construction is taking place.
Swaraj Thapa, a Study Forum member of the Morcha and the principal advisor to the GTA, who is approaching the National Green Tribunal on the issue, today said: "On June 17, 2013, the GTA had approached the DFO (wildlife division 1) seeking clarification on 31.85 acres for rebuilding an old chalet that was under the GTA and also to develop a golf course. The GTA used to employ five employees at the chalet."
The tourism department is building the lodge on the 31.85 acre plot.
Thapa said: "However, in response, the Darjeeling DFO wildlife I wrote to the GTA principal secretary that there were no records to suggest that the land was not a reserve forest."
The letter, which was circulated, is dated June 18, 2013 bearing memo no 817/WL/8-11. The letter states that an area of 38.88 sqkm was declared as Senchel Wildlife Sanctuary as per the gazette notification issued on June 24, 1976.
"On the basis of the above stated notification of 1976, the same area was notified as Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary......... In the notification it is stated that the 'said area is constituted of Reserved Forests under Section 20 of Indian Forests Act, 1927 and is to be included in a sanctuary'. As per this notification the said area is referred to as reserved forests and there is no specific mention about the area of 31.85 acre in the notification," the letter reads.
R.P. Saini, the additional principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF, wildlife) of the state, told The Telegraph over phone from Calcutta that the state tourism department has taken up the project at Tiger Hill after complying with all necessary legal formalities.
Tourists flock to Tiger Hill, situated 14km from here and at an altitude of about 8000ft, to see the sunrise and Mount Kanchenjungha.
Today, Sunil Agarwal, the joint director (north Bengal) of the tourism department, said: "We have started the project only after obtaining necessary approvals. We are well aware of the work that is going on."