KATHMANDU, Sept 5: A writ petition was filed at the Supreme Court Wednesday, seeking a stay against the renewal of leases for seven hotels inside Chitwan National Park (CNP).
The seven hotels inside CNP are lobbying for another lease renewal although the cabinet decided three years ago not to renew the leases again, citing degradation of the habitat of endangered species such as rhino and tiger and the poaching of these species.
Though the cabinet had said in 2009 that that was the last lease renewal, it again discussed the renewal proposal two weeks ago.
The cabinet had formed a committee headed by Forest Minister Yadu Bansha Jha to make a study and recommend further steps. The committee in turn formed a sub-committee comprising government officials ranging from ecologists to lawyers, to take a rigorous look and come up with recommendations.
The writ petition filed by advocate Bijay Kumar Basnet has sought an immediate stay order and demanded that the hotels not be allowed to operate inside the park. CNP is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“The hotels operated for about 50 years without proper rules and regulations; so it would be highly unfair to continue their lease and it would also be against the cabinet´s decision of 2009,” the writ petition says.
CNP was the first national park in the country and covers 932 square kilometers in Chitwan district. The seven hotels, that were in operation till July, are now waiting for a decision before bringing in tourists for the coming season.
According to sources, forest ministry officials are against any lease renewal and so the ministry did not forward the renewal proposal to the cabinet.
However, the issue was floated in the cabinet at the initiative of the prime minister and it formed a committee to decide on the controversial issue. “We don´t want to speak about the issue, it´s up to the cabinet to take a decision,” said one highly-placed source at the ministry.
The hotel owners have been lobbying continuously for a lease renewal and they challenged anyone to prove that they have poached wildlife or have degraded the ecology of the area.
“We are not criminals and we did our business under criteria set up by the CNP authorities; if anyone proves that we were involved in any wildlife crime we are ready to face punishment. So removing us is highly unfair,” said Yadav Bantawa, general manager of Tiger Tops Resort inside CNP.