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Nikhil M Ghanekar, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, November 30, 2012
Almost a decade after Mumbai's nearest hill station Matheran was accorded the tag of an ecologically sensitive zone, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation Limited (MTDC) will present a draft tourism plan to the hill station's high-level monitoring committee (HLMC) on December 4.

Four years ago, HLMC, chaired by V Ranganathan, had asked MTDC to prepare a draft tourism plan that could be incorporated into the zonal master plan. MTDC appointed Aakar-Abhinav Consultants Private Limited to prepare the draft plan. The draft tourism plan has proposed the creation of entertainment facilities keeping in mind the limited carrying capacity of the ecologically fragile hill station.

Quashing reports of inclusion of casinos and discos in the tourism plan, Jagdish Patil, MTDC managing director said: "We have no plans at all to open casinos or discos in Matheran. The recreational facilities will focus more on getting tourists to stay longer and make recurring trips to the hill station."

"We want to create new infrastructure such as parking areas at Dasturi naka, information kiosks, extra toilet blocks, pathways, additional water supply facilities and even a film screening area within the MTDC resort precinct. Popular tourist points such as Alexander point, Charlotte Lake will be given a face lift," added Patil.

The ministry of environment and forests' (MoEF) 2003 notification declaring Matheran as an eco-sensitive zone states that, "There shall be a ban on new and additional tourist facilities such as hotels, restaurants, inns, lodging and boarding houses within Matheran Municipal Council area till the tourism master plan is approved by the ministry of environment and forests."

MTDC will act as the nodal agency to carry out the tourism plan which will be funded by the tourism department.