The Madhya Pradesh forest department and top industrialists are locked in a legal battle over constructions at a popular tourist destination that serves as the gateway to the Satpura national park.
Industrialists moved a local court in Sohagpur after the forest department served notices asking them to stop construction work on grounds that it violated forest laws.
Over the past few years, the virtual who’s who of the state’s political, administrative and industrial world have invested in real estate around Madhai, 150 km from Bhopal, either for purpose of investment or for private getaways.
A spurt in tourist footfall has seen many private resorts come up at Madhai and turn the once sleepy village in Hoshangabad district into a virtual boomtown over the past few years.
Aware of the rush for land and the constructions that would follow, a master plan for Madhai has also been prepared on orders of the chief minister. The plan is, however, on hold.
Field director of Satpura national park, RP Singh said that “unchecked construction activity” was posing a threat to the wildlife of the park, known for its rich biodiversity.
“Area within 10 km of the park boundary falls within the eco sensitive zone and hence should adhere to norms of the local advisory committee,” he added. In its notices issued to several persons in February, the park management said any construction could take place only after being cleared by the committee.
Industrialist Manisha Kalani, among those who were served notice, denied he forest department charge and claimed all norms were being adhered to.
“I had no choice but to appeal in court against the forest department’s move. The forest department is now not submitting a reply and only getting delaying the hearing,” he said.
He also argued that the LAC norms are applicable only for “hotels, lodges and commercial structures while what weare making is a private residence.”
But the park official feared that the people involved in the construction could take “advantage of lax construction norms for residential properties”and construct palatial structures.
“What is there to ensure that a property, presently claimed as residential will not be used for commercial purposes in the future?” Singh questioned.