The state government’s plan to install a modern ropeway with cabins at the Rajgir hills tourist complex has yet again landed in problems.
The Union Ministry of Tourism had allocated around Rs 11 crore for installing a new ropeway replacing the old one apprehending mishaps. The grip- holding chairs of the old steel ropeway, are learnt to have turned fragile and the pillars too have been ompromised. The Government of Japan had gifted the old ropeway more than 40 years ago.
The new proposal, ro replace this old, worn out ropeway, however, is still hanging in balance awaiting a clearance from the Department of Environment and Forests.
The area of ropeway and some portions of the hot water springs at Rajgir are part of protected forests, notified by the Forest Department in 1988. Any construction within the notified area is not allowed as per the forest rules.
“The Tourism department has made a request to the Forest department to transfer 11.74 acres of land beneath the ropeway and in lieu, offered to handover similar area at Ghoda Katora near Rajgir. But the Forest Department rejected the proposal arguing that the land offered was supposedly in a Naxalite -dominatd stretch infested and that it would be difficult to protect forests,” a Tourism official said.
According to Tourism officials, the old ropeway has outlived its utility and it could lead to major mishap any day. “We fear accidents, as the 1,200-metre long ropeway has turned creaky. A boy fell from the ropeway only a few months ago and lost his limbs. The worn out grips of the chairs attached to the steel string may break any time and turn dangerous, as the ropeway ascends up to a height of more than 1,000 feet,” he said.
Considering the delay in clearance, the BSTDC is negotiating with a Japanese firm to get new chairs and tighten the grips for the ropeway. It is also trying to get the shaken pillars repaired. But the firms approached by the Tourism Department have spurned the offer. “The open chairs are risky and cause psychological trauma to people suffering from acrophobia. Even the tourists from the Buddhist countries, who visit the World Peace Pagoda atop Ratnagiri Hills every year, find it highly inconvenient. No tourist spot in the country has this kind of ropeway,” he said.
The new ropeway project also envisages the construction of a cafeteria, drinking water facilities, alternative power supply system, parking space and modern accommodation for the tourists besides housing units for the employees.
Thousands of tourists enjoy the ropeway ride every day and the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) earns revenue of Rs 1 crore from the ropeway.