HP HC allows Ski Village Project in Manali

Shimla/ June 29

Himachal Pradesh High Court has cleared the Rs.5,000-crore Ski Village Project which was proposed to be constructed in Manali by Alfred Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford, 265 kms from here. The largest proposed foreign direct investment in the Indian tourism industry was sucked into controversy by locals and BJP which was in opposition in 2004.

The state government on January 7, 2010 had issued a show cause notice to the Ford company for not fulfilling some mandatory requirements of the project. Himalayan Ski Village (HSV) Private Limited had moved the High Court  against the government’s showcause notice in January 2010.

Setting aside the government order to scrap the project, Justice Rajiv Sharma in his 77-page judgment said: “The notice issued to the company on January 7, 2010, is without jurisdiction and authority of law. The action of the state to issue notice is unreasonable. It is duly established that the state government had already made up its mind to cancel the project and the issuance of notice based on the recommendations of the (state’s high-power) committee was merely a ritual.”

The BJP, when it came to power in January 2008, had  raised fears on the project’s adverse impact on the environment and livelihood of the people.

“The state has failed to satisfy the court that there was any misrepresentation or suppression of material information or breach of any of the provisions,” the judgment said.

The then Congress government had  approved the $300 million Ski Village project in Kullu district on May 25, 2006, despite opposition from the BJP and villagers, after accepting the detailed project report (DPR) submitted by Himalayan Ski Village Project.

On July 2, 2007 a Manali-based NGO Jan Jagran Avam Vikas Sansthan had filed a petition in Himachal High Court for scrapping and quashing the entire concept, proposal and project. It was alleged that the establishment of this mega project in the Manali area would adversely affect ecology. The petitioner, Sanjeev Sharma, had also alleged that the state Cabinet had granted approval to the company in violation of law.

Himalayan Ski Village Private Limited had given an undertaking in the court that it will not begin any construction work on the site without the leave of the court. As per the plan of the promoter, the construction work was to be completed by the end of the year 2009 but not even a single brick has been placed at the project site till Friday.

According to the plan, Alfred Ford will get the ski slopes stretching 14 km between Kothi and Jagatsukh in Manali designed by experts from Vail, Colorado.

“The project involves development of hospitality, vacation homes and entertainment facilities of world class on 115 acres of land in the hilly terrains of the Kullu Valley. This development will be the first fully planned and integrated resort destination to be built in India since the British colonial powers built their hill stations, which remain enormously popular throughout the subcontinent. HSV will provide an international quality holiday experience to as many as 4,500 visitors at any one time,” a spokesperson requesting anonymity said.

The project, according to the spokesperson, will be developed at the northern end of the Kullu Valley with the various facilities located at heights between 7,500 and 14,000 feet above sea level. The project targets the domestic tourists of India as well as visitors from the US, Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

According to the company, the project involves the development of 700 hotel rooms, restaurants along with an ‘Indian Village’ shopping experience; a 20,000 sq ft convention facility and a high end spa; and an entertainment/performing arts centre.