RAMESH PRASAD BHUSHAL
KATHMANDU: Hotels inside Chitwan National Park have started lobbying officials for renewal of their contract to operate business in the protected area, with the government-set deadline for them to leave the park fast approaching.
Hoteliers, who have until July 2012 to wind up their operations in the area, have urged Forest Minister Yadubansha Jha to renew their contracts as their businesses had established Nepal as a destination for nature tourism.
Minister Jha, who was at the Tiger Tops resort inside the park, said he was positive about renewing the contract for seven hotels inside the park. “We need to promote tourism. I don’t have any problem renewing the hotels’ contracts as they have been paying their taxes,” said Jha.
Until 2009, there were seven hotels based inside Chitwan National Park.
While Tiger Tops, Safari Narayani, Chitwan Jungle Lodge, Machan Wildlife Resort, Island Jungle Resort and Temple Tigers, are still in operation, Gainda Lodge left the area after the government’s decision to renew their contract for one last time in 2009.
The contracts, which set July 2012 as deadline for the hotels to leave the park, were signed amid accusations that the hotels were destroying animal habitat. A parliamentary committee in 2009 even claimed that poaching of wild animals was higher near hotels.
Hotels outside Chitwan Park have also been demanding that the hotels inside be removed as they have been enjoying extra facilities.
But hotel owners inside the national park refuted the claim and challenged authorities to prove their allegations.
“If we were involved in such crimes, then how did the government celebrate Zero Poaching Year in 2011. Such accusations were made to force us out,” said Yadav Bantawa, general manager at Tiger Tops Lodge.
“We have asked the minister to take our demand seriously as we have established Nepal as a destination for nature tourism in the last fifty years,” he added .
Officials at the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation Department said that they will respect any decision the Cabinet takes on the issue.
“If the Cabinet is ready to review the decision, we will not oppose it. It all depends on what the Cabinet does and how the minister will make the proposal,” said a high level source at the department.