Hotels in the eco-sensitive zone of Gir forest that were sealed by the Gujarat High Court for want of adequate permits or for building additional rooms without permission have allegedly found a way to hoodwink the law. An RTI activist from Veraval has written to the HC that the hotels, in connivance with local authorities, have opened illegally to handle vacation rush of tourists.
President of RTI Activists' Association Rajak Baloch has in his letter to the high court written that several hotels inside the eco-sensitive zone of Gir forest have opened sealed rooms for guests during the vacation season, blatantly violating high court directions and in full connivance with the local administration.
The high court in a suo motu order in 2015 had directed not to carry out commercial or industrial activity within the eco-sensitive zone in Gir forest area. Baloch appealed to the court to seize CCTV footage from hotels, and constitute a special investigation team to force hotel owners to deposit income earned during the period in the government treasury.
The letter listed 11 hotels situated in eco-sensitive zones, some of which do not have permissions while others were operating without adequate permissions for additional rooms, that were sealed in a drive in 2015. It alleges that the hotels were giving backdoor entry to tourists in sealed areas. The list of 11 includes a few starred hotels and chains of hotel besides local guest and farm houses.
In-charge Deputy Conservator of Forests, Gir,W M L Meena said, "We have given our opinion to revenue department as and when they sought it. We do not have any direct role in this." Baloch also alleged that there is no proper register maintained either by hotels or departments to monitor number of people entering and exiting the eco-sensitive zone. Mirror tried to contact Gir-Somnath collector Ajay Prakash but calls and messages remained unanswered.