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Himachal Pradesh bets big on eco-tourism to boost revenue

MOHALI: The state government has identified 113 sites to be developed as eco-tourism destinations, chief minister Jairam Thakur said on Monday after inaugurating an international conference on eco-tourism potential in Himachal at Manali.

The Eco-tourism Society and state forest department are organizing the conference with an aim to promote eco-tourism as a major source of income for the state. Besides officials from the forest department and Eco-tourism Society, experts from the US, UK, Finland, South Africa and Brazil are participating in the event to explore tourism potential in the state.

Union minister of state for tourism KJ Alphons also attended the conference.

The CM said 47 sites to be developed as eco-tourism spots had been handed over to the state forest corporation, 16 to the forest department and five to parties to be developed under a public-private partnership.

“No government in Himachal allotted any fund for tourism. We, for the first time, have started with provision of budget of Rs 50 crore for tourism promotion. A total of 31 eco-tourism circuits have been identified and we will send a proposal on the same to the Centre for approval,” Thakur said.

The CM said Himachal has a large number of hydel projects that can be opened for tourists. “It will be an added attraction. The reservoirs can be used for water sports. 50 forest rest houses of Himachal are already linked to eco-tourism activities. We also plan to play live shows on history of different places of Himachal to the tourists.”

He said herbal gardens and nature parks are being developed across the state and seasonal employment would be ensured for local youths with help of eco-tourism.

Forest minister Govind Singh Thakur said Himachal is rich with biodiversity and is home to hundr of species of flora and fauna. He said as major part of Himachal is covered with forest, the state can conduct 100% eco-tourism activities by ensuring zero impact on environment.

Dalip Singh Rana, better known as the Great Khali, who has been made brand ambassador of plastic-free Himachal campaign, pledged to do his best to help the state government in achieving the task.

Union minister of state for tourism KJ Alphons said future of India is in tourism industry as global tourism grew by 7% last year and tourism in India saw an increase of 15.6%. “Himachal has peaks, rivers, waterfalls, snow, forest cover, variety of flora and fauna. The state has huge potential of tourism. Centre will try its best to help Himachal in promotion and development of eco-tourism activities,” he said.

On cards

Log huts to be built in forest areas

Three eco-tourism hubs will be developed this year

10 new adventure sports destinations will be developed with the help of Eco-Tourism Society, tourism department and Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali

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