Punjab sets ball rolling for 2 world class eco tourism projects around Thein dam inspired by Italian lakes

The "renewed" project, as part of which the state government has planned to set up two eco tourism sites around the Ranjit Sagar lake, is worth around Rs Rs 550 crore and is proposed to be set up in public private partnership (PPP) mode. 

THE CONGRESS government in Punjab has set the ball rolling for two world-class eco-tourism projects around Ranjit Sagar lake located in Thein dam project of Pathankot district. 

The project components have been inspired by famous lakes located in Italy and “Himalayan style architecture”.

The eco-tourism projects were initially planned by the previous SAD-BJP government but could not take shape after no tourism honcho came forward to express interest in the project. 

The “renewed” project, as part of which the state government has planned to set up two eco-tourism sites around the Ranjit Sagar lake, is worth around Rs Rs 550 crore and is proposed to be set up in public-private partnership (PPP) mode. 

Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) Managing Director Vijay Zade told The Indian Express that officials of the Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority (PIRA) would on April 7 hear the objections on draft request for proposal issued by the PIDB for the eco-tourism projects. 

On October 1, 2014, the department of Housing and Urban Development in the erstwhile SAD-BJP government had constituted Shivalik (Dhauladhar) Tourism Development Board to develop one such area around Thein dam along Ranjit Sagar lake as tourism/theme destination project in the state. 

Project ‘scaled down’

A government functionary working with PIDB said the current project had been “scaled down” as compared to what was proposed during SAD-BJP regime. The draft request for proposal to hear objections has been issued by PIDB on behalf of Amritsar Development Authority, the nodal agency for the project.

Then finance minister in SAD-BJP government and sitting MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa, who is no longer with SAD and is a member of SAD (Demoractic) party floated by his father, former SAD leaders and Rajya Sabha member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa who floated the new political outfit after rebellion against the Sukhbir Singh Badal-led SAD, said the eco-tourism projects were envisaged by the Akali-led government but could not be implemented after no investors showed interest. Dhindsa was a member of Shivalik (Dhauladhar) Tourism Development Board. 

As per the current proposal of the state government, two world-class eco-tourism sites have been planned to set up at Naloh Tika Palangi (Lake front) and Kulara island, in an area of 56.22 acres and 18.54 acres, respectively.

The respective project costs, as per the project proposal, are Rs 448 crore and Rs 105 crore, totaling more than Rs 550 crore. 

As per the draft request for proposal, the selected bidder as per annual concession fee agreement would be required to pay an annual concession fee of Rs 3.56 crore for Palangi project and Rs 2.65 crore for Kulara island project for 60 years, after which the possession of the projects would be handed over to the state government. 

The selected bidder would also need to pay an upfront premium of Rs 25 crore for Palangi project and Rs 12 crore for Kurala island project. 

The Punjab government has already met the key regulatory compliances for the project with environmental clearance. The government has also obtained forest clearance of stage one. The forest clearance for stage two would be applied after selection of the bidder. 

As per the terms and conditions of the projects, the Palangi project is to be constructed within a period of six years and Kulara island project within three years. 

The Italy factor

As per a presentation prepared by the PIDB where promiment sites in Italy have been pictorially referred to, the eco-tourism projects were inspired by “Italian lake side, Lake Como Italy, Lake Bellagio Italy (Promenade view) and the Himalayan style architecture”.

The project site would have a road connectivity of 25 km from National Highway 1 A that leads to Kashmir valley. It will be 30 km away from Pathankot railway station, 40 km from Pathankot Civil Airport and 155 km from Amritsar Internation Airport. 

The presentation notes that the site identified by the [State] government was “highly pristine and one of its kind”
and that “this route is most travelled in peak summers and winters time by tourists”.

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