The Himachal tourism department is in a bind as major projects aimed at boosting tourist inflows into the state have been held up by seemingly endless bureaucratic delays for the past two decades.
"I regret to say projects that were floated when I was holding the tourism portfolio way back in 1994-95 are still buried in files," said Himachal tourism development board vice chairmen Vijay Singh Mankotia who was tourism minister during the previous Congress party led regime.
Six aerial ropeway projects that were planned to draw in more visitors to the state are still hanging fire. The government had proposed to set up a ropeway to connect the sleepy hill town of Dharamsala to the Tibetan Buddhist centre McLeodganj which is also the abode of the exiled Dalai Lama. There was also proposal to connect the Hindu shrine of Naina Devi to the Sikh pilgrimage town of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. However, on assuming power in the state the Congress party decided to cancel the memorandum of understanding signed with the Punjab government to develop the ropeway. The Himachal government then decided to construct the ropeway from Taba village, located near Anandpur, and Naina Devi.
Files on the proposed ropeway to link Shatalai to the Hindu shrine of Deothsidh are still gathering dust, which there has been no headway in the proposed ropeway to connect McLeodganj to the scenic mountain site of Triund.
"Practically all new projects floated in the state tend to remain in files. It's due to the file culture prevailing here that the ropeway projects didn't take off. Constructing ropeways isn't the government's business but that of the private sector. But we have discouraged private sector investment in this area," said Mankotia, who advocated relaxation of norms on building ropeways.
So far the government has cleared only three ropeway projects including the one from Dharamsala bus station to McLeodganj, Tuttikandi bus terminus to Rani Jhansi Park on Mall Road in Shimla and Himanii to Chamunda. It has now initiated the process to set up ropeways connecting Bijli Mahadev and Palchan to Rohtang. However, the National Green Tribunal has time and again underlined the need to develop alternative means of transport in order to reduce automotive carbon emissions that was increasing pollution in the area.
The government had also proposed to provide more facilities for tourists at the 65 km long Maharana Pratap Sagar reservoir, better known as the Pong dam, but the project remains a non-starter. The plan envisaged adding facilities for shikara houseboats, bird watching and water sports.