The project, located 25 km from Siliguri, is to be developed through private participation. The plans include a lake plaza, ayurvedic spa village, a high-end eco lake resort, star category eco resorts, budget eco resorts, a cultural area, camping area, amusement park and a golf course and academy.
The green bench passed its directions on Friday after environment activist Subhas Datta submitted that the land on which the tourism hub is being set up is part of the Baikunthapur Forest. According to him, it isn’t clear when the land was transferred to the tourism department and through what agreement. Datta also wanted to know if the project has obtained necessary environmental clearances. “We are not against development of the state or any tourism project but necessary clearances have to be obtained,” he said.
The bench of Justice S P Wangdi and Prof P C Mishra then wanted to know whether the project has got the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done and prepared a Environmental Management Plan (EMP). When counsel for the state government weren’t able to confirm this, the NGT directed that no further progress should be made without the EIA and EMP.
Datta had moved NGT in January this year against illegal activities in the forests of north Bengal. He had pointed out how boulders and sand are being lifted illegally from the riverbeds and stone crusher units being allowed to run close to major elephant corridors. The bench had then directed the chief secretary to file an affidavit. The affidavit was submitted on Friday and the bench expressed its displeasure after going through it.
“Information is not only incomplete, it is also factually incorrect. It seems that material provided by lower rung officials have been relied on without any checks. The facts submitted don’t seem to be correct. The insincerity on the part of some officers is obvious. This is quite unfortunate,” the bench observed.