NGT notice to Deomali ecotourism project
Trouble seems to be mounting for the eco-tourism project at the famed Deomali in Koraput district with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issuing notice to the State Forest Department. The Collector and the Koraput Forest Division are to respond to allegations of environmental damage within four weeks of receipt of the notice.
The order came in response to a petition by the Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) in 2018 citing the detrimental impact on Deomali’s ecosystem triggered by the construction of cottages at the site. The petition opposed the eco-tourism measures citing that nearly 25 acres of forest land were being used for concrete constructions.
It was alleged that Deomali in the Pottangi block of Koraput is known for its endemic species of flora and fauna. However, the Forest Department is constructing cottages on the hilltop with all-weather cement fiber boards and the soil is being dug up for the plantation of pine saplings due to bauxite deposits.
As per the petition, the Deomali project is included under the Centre’s Swadesh Darshan Scheme for the development of infrastructure to boost the inflow of tourists. The project is in addition to Rs 16 crore sanctioned by the Tourism Department for the integrated development of the hill.
It is also alleged that similarly, Semiliguda Forest Range has prepared a proposal for the Development of an Eco-Tourism Complex at an estimated cost of about Rs 4.5 crore and the same is being executed by the Semiliguda Forest Range Office. Further, the DFO, Koraput Wildlife Division, has issued a tender notice for Rs 3.95 crore for Civil Works at Deomali. The Semiliguda Forest Range Project is stated to be spread over 10.4 hectares or 26 acres of forest land and requires prior approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
In the present proposal for eco-tourism, there has been no involvement of the local community or indigenous knowledge of making houses and household articles which are in violation of MoEF and CC letter dated 19.09.2018 stating the policy for eco-tourism in forest and wildlife area, the petitioner claimed.
In response, the apex green panel stated that the matter requires urgent attention and asked all respondents to file counter-affidavits within four weeks. The next hearing is scheduled on August 23.