Cafeterias come up at Kalatop sanctuary, flouting NGT orders

Lalit Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chamba, December 6

A notice board put up by the Forest Department near the Khajjiar tourist spot in Chamba district reads: “The National Green Tribunal has ordered complete prohibition of all commercial activities in and around the lake periphery, at least up to 500 m from the water line.”

Despite the NGT notice, commercial activities continue around the lake area. A number of hotels, homestays and cafeterias have come up at Kalatop Khajjiar wildlife sanctuary. Some cafeterias and homestays are functioning within 100 m of the lake.

Sources say forest and wildlife officials, who have their offices right on the edge of Khajjiar pasture, don’t take action against those carrying out illegal activities in the sanctuary area under political pressure.

Appeal in court

People (undertaking commercial activity near the sanctuary) have filed an appeal against the NGT order. We will take action as per the final order on that petition. —Rajiv Kumar, DFO (Wildlife), Chamba

New constructions are also coming up near the Kalatop wildlife department rest house, which is located deep inside the sanctuary area. Sources say the area within 1 km from the sanctuary falls under eco-sensitive zone and no new commercial hotel or resort can be permitted in this area, but the norm is being flouted with impunity.

Rajiv Kumar, DFO (Wildlife), Chamba, when asked about the commercial activities being carried out in Khajjiar in violation of the NGT order, said people had filed an appeal against the NGT order and the department would take action as per the final order on that petition. On new constructions close to the wildlife rest house at Kalatop, he said the area in which homestays and new constructions were coming up was outside the sanctuary area. He, however, admitted that the new constructions were in violation of the rules notified for eco-sensitive zone. Notices have been issued to such people, he maintained.

Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania said the issue of new constructions near the sanctuary had come to his notice and he had asked officials to take action against those violating rules.

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