Ramdev eyes ecotourism site, proposes nature care centre

  • Ipsita Pati, Hindustan Times, Gurgaon
  • Updated: Aug 14, 2016 00:15 IST
Bharat Yatra Kendra is a 588-acre area in the Aravali hills on Sohna Road that is being developed as an ecotourism site. (HT File)

Yoga guru Ramdev is interested in developing a wellness centre at Bharat Yatra Kendra -- a 588-acre area in the Aravali hills on Sohna Road that is being developed as an ecotourism site -- sources said. The site is 10 kilometres from the city.

In 1983, former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, then a Member of Parliament, set up the kendra to promote ecology abd environment, and installed himself as chairman. The then panchayat of Bhondsi village gifted the land to the kendra. The site also houses a farmhouse that belonged to Chandra Shekhar.

Earlier known as Bhondsi ashram, the kendra was handed over to the Haryana government following a Supreme Court order in 2009. The Haryana Forest Development Corporation is developing the kendra as an ecotourism site.

“We were approached by the yoga guru’s organisation on World Yoga Day when Ramdev’s associate Balakrishna came to visit the centre. But, any kind of non-forest activity is not allowed on this land because of the Forest Conservation Act. Even we are not constructing anything. We are renovating what the centre already has,” Subhash Yadav of the Haryana Forest Development Corporation, said.

Ramdev has proposed to construct a nature care and wellness centre on the site. However, the corporation has shown reluctance to the proposal saying that the area is closed under Section 38 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (FCA) that prohibits non-forest activities in the area.

The media cell of Ramdev’s organisation said the project is at a premature stage. “We had shown interest but we have not taken the project forward as we did not hear from the corporation,” the yoga guru’s spokesperson said.

About 70 acres of the kendra is being developed into a natural awareness and education centre. The total budget of the project is `1.67 crore. The plan is to develop the spot as a nature camp with eco-lodges, tents and tree huts in a jungle-like ambience.

Previously, a `17 crore proposal to upgrade the site and open it for tourism was delayed because of scarcity of funds with the state government.

In 2009, the kendra was taken over by the Haryana Forest Department Corporation and since then, it is jointly maintained by the corporation and Bhondsi village panchayat. “We are working in Ashok Vatika at present. The existing structures are being repaired and redundant tubewells are made functional. We are in the process of creating an eco-friendly hub, but we cannot confirm any fixed deadline,” Yadav said.

The site is also home to many species of birds and animals. “We will also restrict entry to the site and charge nominal ticket for visitors. This is with a view to make the centre self-reliant,” Yadav said.

Currently, the ownership of this forest reserve land still remains with the Bhondsi gram panchayat. So, the department will be seeking the permission of local communities before changing anything inside the centre as per the Supreme Court guidelines.

Sanjay Yadav, head of Bhondsi village panchayat, said the site was under the control of the village. “We used to maintain it. Given a chance, we can still do it. We have around `60 crore in our panchayat fund, which we can use for the upkeep of the kendra,” he said.

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