Closed CNP hotels get a new lease of life

The Cabinet today granted the permission for the seven hotels inside the Chitwan National Park (CNP) to operate their business as usual for three more years. The hotels have been closed inside the CNP area since July 15.

"We decided to allow the hotels to operate as usual till 2012 after which they have to quit," said Deepak Bohara, Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation. "Three years is ample time for them to prepare for an exit and relocate their businesses outside the CNP area," he added. A controversy surrounding the hotels inside the CPN area became manifest after the agreed time period of the hotels to run their businesses ended in July.

The case was then taken up by the Public Account Committee (PAC) for investigation. In view of the Nepal Tourism Year 2011, the PAC at first recommended the government to allow the hotels to operate till that year but the parliamentary committee on natural resources intervened halting the implementation of the PAC decision arguing that the matter was a concern of the natural resource committee and not the PAC. According to article 3 of the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Regulation 1973, CNP has the power to permit any lodge and resort inside the CNP but it has to follow a tender process. But under an agreement, which was renewed in 1993 for 16 years, the hotels had been allowed to operate inside the CNP without going through a formal tender process.

"With the new decision, there is no need of a tender process. Hotels inside the park will leave in 2012 once and for all. We have given three years extra-time for them to make necessary preparations for an exit," Minister Bohara said.

The hotels inside the CNP are blamed for degrading natural habitat of the wildlife. An overwhelming majority of the staffers at the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) along with the local residents and conservationists had solidly backed the proposal for the closure of the hotels.

In yet another development, the Cabinet today decided to declare two more conservation areas -- Gaurishanker Conservation Area (2,035 sq km) in Dolakha and Ramechhap, and Api Nampa (1,900 sq km) in Darchula district, said Shanker Pokharel, Minister for Information and Communications.

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