The state government submitted its uniform policy on commercial establishments in the Gir forest that houses famous Asiatic lions, before the Gujarat High Court (HC) on Thursday. The new policy has given a big relief to existing units, mostly hotels and resorts which were facing legal action following a suo motu petition in the HC against illegal and haphazard constructions in and around the reserved forest areas.
The government placed its policy draft before the division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Rajesh H Shukla, outlining its scheme for “governing the business of hotels and other commercial establishments outside the boundaries of Gir protected area.” The draft states that there will be no new licences for hotels and resorts in one km area of the border of the protected forest. The government has also announced a new cess that will be called “eco development fee” to be levied at the rate of Rs 20 per sqmt while seeking conversion of agricultural land into non-agricultural land.
Under the policy, the construction of low-rise buildings will be permitted between 1-2 km from sanctuary’s border, while the non-commercial residential buildings will be permitted from 2-5 km. The policy states that a committee, headed by district collector, having DCF as member-secretary and District Development Officer and Superintendent of Police as members, will clear projects in 5-10 km area.
The government has given a huge relief to the existing establishments inside the eco-sensitive zone from 0 km to 10 km who enjoy status quo, but those constructed without permission and clearances will be brought down. Interestingly, the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd (TCGL), a government of Gujarat undertaking, will have to seek NOC from Chief Wildlife Warden before recognising a house outside of gamtal (village boundary) for homestay purpose.
Besides, under the new policy, all the existing units will have to get themselves registered with concerned DCF within three months from now which applies to all units falling within 10 km eco-sensitive zone. The renewal of licences will be cleared only after seeking opinion of DCF. Before giving NOC to any project, a gazetted forest officer will have to make spot visit of the project site and file a report. Swimming pools will be allowed in closed compounds.
This exercise comes in the wake of a crackdown on illegal constructions in the forest area.