The financially strapped Himachal government, which has been struggling to find ways to generate additional revenues, has now decided to lease out large tracts of tourism department land to private entrepreneurs for promotion of tourist activities in the state.
Half a dozen sites in Baddi in Solan district, Jatingri in Mandi, Bilaspur, Suketi in Sirmaur and Shoja in Kullu, have been identified for being developed as tourist centres.
The government had earlier proposed to develop a golf course at on a large piece of land that had been vacant for many years in the industrial township of Baddi, but the plans fell through due to financial constraints.
Earlier, a three-member cabinet subcommittee that was tasked with finding fresh avenues for mobilizing revenues, had suggested lands owned by the tourism and forest departments could be leased out for developing tourist centres. The panel, set up by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is headed by irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes with the other two members being transport minister GS Bali and industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri.
The government now intends to lease out land in the scenic Jatingri area in Mandi district and in Barot in Mandi to private firms to promote adventures sports like paragliding and other tourism related activities.
The tourism department also proposes to lease out a large chunk of land located near the Suketi fossil park in Sirmaur district. This park, that contains one of the world's richest collections of fossils of mammals, is well known for its six lifesized fibreglass models of prehistoric animals whose skeletons were found at the site.
The department also possesses land near the idyllic Shoja village in the Seraj region of Kullu district, which it plans to give out a long-term lease to private entities for tourism activities. Located close to the Great Himalayan National Park, the village offers some breathtaking views of the Teerthan valley.