TT, Siliguri, Aug. 25: Work at the Gajoledoba tourism project will remain suspended for at least one more month as the state has not yet submitted the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report as directed by the National Green Tribunal and the next date of hearing is on September 28.
Last week, the Eastern Zone Bench of the tribunal had passed an order saying all constructions at the site should be stopped till the state submitted the report.
The mega tourism hub called Bhorer Alo is coming up near the Teesta Barrage Project in Rajganj block of Jalpaiguri district, 25km from here.
Work stopped a couple of months back after Subhas Datta, a Calcutta-based environmentalist, filed an application before the tribunal earlier this year saying the state had not complied with the mandatory requirements under the EIA Notification, 2006, and proceeded with several constructions on the site that is near the Baikunthapur forest.
On July 15, the bench heard the plea and ordered that the state submit an affidavit stating whether the EIA Notification, 2006, had been complied with.
According to the EIA Notification, 2006, any government department or private entrepreneur taking up a new project or expanding one, which features in the notification list, will have to obtain an Environmental Clearance (EC) report from the central or the state-level EIA authority.
While applying for the EC, one has to submit documents, including the EIA and the Environment Management Plan.
The Gajoledoba case was heard again on August 18 and the state tourism department advocate had then said that the assessment report would be completed within 10 days.
At the hearing, the bench had said: “… Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, we direct that if any construction is going on without obtaining environmental clearance, its further progress shall be withheld until it is granted.”
Earlier, on August 10, state tourism minister Gautam Deb had said his department had assigned Jadavpur University to carry out the EIA and prepare the report.
“He had said the state would get all necessary reports. But it is evident that it is yet to get those,” an observer said.
At Gajoledoba, the state has already allotted plots to private firms for resorts and put in place infrastructure, like roads, electricity connections, pavements and sewerage network.
“It is evident that no work can be carried out till September 28. It is the largest tourism project by the government in the state and a dream of the chief minister. The government is expecting private investments worth Rs 1,000 crore,” a member of the tourism industry based in Siliguri said. “We fail to understand why the tourism department did not take the initiative to obtain the Environmental Clearance before starting work.”
The delay has left the stakeholders worried. “The first Bengal Travel Mart was a success. Recently, the tourism minister had said the second edition would be held at Gajoledoba in January. If work is suspended, we doubt if it can be held there,” a tour operator said.