Sealing drive near Gir to hit tourists
The Economics Times
AHMEDABAD: People making plans to go lion spotting in Gir sanctuary this summer vacation should prepare to face a severe shortage of rooms and inflated tariffs. The majority of hospitality units will be shut following the Gujarat high court crackdown on illegal hotels and farmhouses in and around the sanctuary.
The HC ordered action against the illegal encroachments after it took suo motu cognizance of an anonymous letter complaining that forest management in Gir has become subordinate to the tourism industry. The government immediately identified 128 such 'encroachers', who run hospitality units in the buffer zone around sanctuary across three districts — Junagadh, Amreli and Gir-Somnath. Of them, the authorities first targeted farmhouses and 72 such places have been sealed.
Out these 72, the owners of 50 farmhouses have moved the HC and complained that the sealing took place indiscriminately. "Officials left only a few rooms open in small farmhouses for use by families living on the farm. We also applied for permission to rent space to tourists under the state's homestay policy, but no response has come so far," said one farmhouse owner and a litigants in the high court, Devayat Vadher.
According to Vadher, authorities sealed nearly 70% of rooms in small farmhouses. He said that most tourists are from the middle class and can not afford expensive hotels, and hence prefer to stay in small places.
The problems won't affect economy class tourists, but more affluent visitors may be affected. The HC has ordered for the formation of a committee for each district to check on luxury hotels. There are 34 big hotels around the sanctuary with permission to operate 390 rooms all put together. The committee is tasked to seal the remaining rooms and disconnect power supply to them.
The possible shortage of rooms for tourists may lead to locals coming up with alternative arrangements. "Local farmers may put up tents for tourists may lead to locals coming up with alternative arrangements. "Local farmers may put up tents for tourists as they did last Diwali," said a senior forest official.