The Maharashtra Government is looking into a proposal to convert sections of select forts into heritage hotels and also make forts available as “exclusive wedding destinations”.
The proposal is part of the state government’s ‘Consultation Paper on Tourism Policy- 2016’ which among other things plans to exploit the tourism potential of over 350 forts that dot the state.
The draft tourism policy, open for stakeholders’ suggestions before final cabinet approval, aims at developing a strategy for creating one million jobs and attracting investments of Rs 30,000 crore in five years.
The idea has not gone down well with environmentalists, historians and conservationists.
The major concern is that this will lead to commercial exploitation of forts which in turn will lead to ecological imbalance of the area around the fort.
“Majority of these forts are situated in and around forest areas and making forts available as wedding destination means loud music, crowd, chaos, party which will not only disrupt the wildlife, but also create nuisance. The entire policy is very impressive, however, these two points are objectionable,” said Jitendra Gupta, an environmentalist and trekker.
Gupta has uploaded the link of the draft policy on social media and appealed to people to post their suggestions and objections to the state government.
Sachin Joshi, a researcher from the Archaeological department of Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute said, “We have so many problems getting permissions for surveys. Take the example of Shanivar wada — people living nearby are restricted from constructing anything in a radius of 200-300 metres. Besides, so many other rules under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) have to be followed for forts which are surrounded by water bodies. The idea of handing over these citadels to private entities to revamp and convert into a heritage hotel is not good for the structure. Besides wedding destination plan is even worse. As it is, the forts in Maharashtra are not conserved the way they should have been.”
Gupta added, “Getting forts under public-private-partnership and handing them over to a private entity will ensure that forts go beyond the reach of common people.”
While the state government has uploaded the ‘Consultation Paper on Tourism Policy- 2016’ and invited suggestions and objections from stakeholders, the ministry is awaiting clearance from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
By converting forts into heritage hotels and wedding destinations, the historical importance of these structures would be killed, said ASI officials.
B G Yelikar, in-charge of Pune sub-circle of ASI said, “The person or company handed over the fort for revamping as hotel and wedding destination will concentrate on attracting more tourists by offering great ambience and the historical importance of the structure will be killed. All this commercial activities might generate revenue but the life of our forts will reduce even more. Already we are struggling to get resources in place to conserve these forts.”