GTA to approach National Green Tribunal on state govt's Tiger Hill project
The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration has decided to approach the National Green Tribunal in its bid to stop the state government from implementing a tourism project at Tiger Hill in Darjeeling for which construction work is already in progress.
The GTA contends that construction work for a tourist lodge at Tiger Hill, which falls under the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary above Jorebungalow, 8km from Darjeeling, was being done without approval from the forest department and in violation of environmental guidelines.
The construction agency is Mackintosh Burn Limited while the West Bengal Tourist Development Corporation is implementing the work. The initiative to approach the NGT will be taken by Swaraj Thapa, principal advisor to the GTA and member of the GJM study forum. “Tiger
Hill is a tourist spot famous for its spectacular sunrise views. Many senior citizens have objected to the construction and approached me to look into the matter. We have already started seeking information on how the project is being implemented without approval from concerned departments. I will also move the NGT within the next few days,” said Thapa.
The Tiger Hill tourism project is close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who on several occasions has visited the spot with state government officials. The GJM scanner comes at a time when the TMC is making every effort to make political inroads, taking advantage of the state government doles being offered to the hills.
“We have to take the issue with seriousness and concern. Tiger Hill falls under the wildlife sanctuary and is a sensitive environment zone. Massive digging on 12 to 18 hectares of land is in progress which will have an effect on the wildlife and also the environment,” said Thapa.
Tiger Hill arguably offers one of the best views of the sun rising. The place is also revered for the Senchel Dham (Durga temple) by locals and tourists alike.
Thapa said the state government had neither taken approval of the forest department nor prepared a detailed project report with estimates or followed guidelines to assess possible damage to the environment. “Before starting the project, approval from the DFO, CCF and the headquarters of the environment and forest department in Bhubaneshwar has to be taken. We have information that no such permission has been sought,” Thapa said.
The principal advisor said the GTA and the GJM were not against development but stressed that environmental norms and guidelines must be followed. “We have no objection against developing the region as it is required. However, norms and guidelines must be followed. And if the state government has not got approval from the concerned departments, the project should be shifted to another place,” Thapa said.
On March 5, tourism minister Gautam Deb visited Tiger Hill with his entourage to oversee the progress in the construction work. Dharmadeo Rai, the wildlife DFO, refused to come on record saying he was on a field visit and would only comment after reaching office a couple of days later. “I receive several letters from individuals and departments. I am on a field visit and at the moment I will not be able to provide the right information,” he said when pursued for his comments.
Officials of the forest department also could not be contacted or reached for their statement on the issue. (EOIC)