The Himalayan Ski Village (HSV) was conceptualised as a mega tourism project in 2004 in the Western Himalayan town of Manali by Alfred Ford, the great grandson of Henry Food.  The town of Manali falls under District Kullu of Himachal Pradesh, India. With an investment figure worth $ 300 million, the Himalayan Ski village, back then in 2004, qualified as the largest foreign direct investment project in Indian tourism.  Alfred Ford's business company ABF International entered the Indian market in 2005, with a spate of investments in mega tourism projects.  The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the proposed HSV was signed on 9th December 2005. After the MoU and before the signing of the Implementation Agreement (IA), HSV evoked a series of local level protests across Kullu and Manali, mainly headed by local environment collectives, and State level political representatives.
• On ground, local environmental groups like Jan Jangran Evam Vikas Samiti (JJVS), Jan Hit Sangarsh Samiti (JHSS), Him Niti Abhiyan (HNA), a state level coalition of people's groups and activists questioned the environmental and socio-cultural ill effects of the proposed HSV. In 2005, the local environment groups and community leaders had estimated that a total of 12 panchayats with more than 60 villages would be directly and indirectly affected if the project was allowed to come up. The problematic terms and conditions of the MoU once publicly released added fuel to the building opposition against HSV.
• Many problematic clauses dealt with the handing over of exclusive rights over common property resources to HSV. For instance, the Section VII of the MoU granted project proponents "the water rights in the Project Area, including the tapping of unused nallahs (streams) /ground water and building retention ponds for snow making and supply to resort village.”
It also granted the company an "irrevocable license for the use of ski trails and making of snow and ice on such trails for the duration of the [land] lease and for the construction of trail markers, retention ponds, underground water lines and water pumps...”
• Additionally, the government was also obliged to “Facilitate and secure free use of the common law right of the legally admitted skiers by the company to pass and repass on the ski trails without impediment and also allow the company and its invitees full access to Public and Private roads and accord permission to build roads, ropeways or gondolas wherever required”.
• The case of HSV also went on to become a political battle for the two major political parties of the state, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 2005, the year the project was proposed, the Congress government was in power. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), then in opposition was quick to raise the matter, and oppose it on grounds of geological and ecological damage. In the subsequent years, the case of HSV also became one of the core political agendas of Himachal Lokhit Party (a new political outfit). An alternative forwarded by HLP concerned the upgradation of existing tourism infrastructure in Manali town and other adjoining tourist spots instead of building a massive infrastructure like HSV .
• Further, the local opposition took (given) an interesting turn when the local Devta Samaaj (a shamanistic Hindu religious order) across Kullu valley (popularly known as Dev Bhoomi- valley of Gods) were mobilized by Maheshwar Singh, the erstwhile Ruler of Kullu (also the chief of HLP) to give their on HSV. Close to 170 local deities and their representatives gathered for a Jagati puch (open court). Not only the local deities passed their verdict against HSV but additionally ordered a judicial decision on the matter. This unanimous vetoing against HSV in many ways legitimised the opposing voices as now a religious justification was sought . However, despite the popular mood, the Implementation Agreement was signed between the Himachal Pradesh government and HSV on 5th June 2006. A year later after the signing of the IA, HSV also submitted its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report to the Central Government. The project proponents were also asked to submit a Detailed Project Report within six months.
• On 6th June 2007, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the High Court at Shimla (the state capital) by JJVS, and another one in the same year by a local hotelier from Manali. Both these PIL's were clubbed together by the High Court. At that point, the local residents claimed that the High Court had stayed the project but the company officials refuted any such order. However, they admitted to a written agreement by the company stating that no construction work could be carried on before all the necessary permissions were sought from various departments. On 18th June 2007, again there was a massive protest rally against the project in Manali town.
• On 29th December, 2007 the project was listed for consideration/ discussion with Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) Expert Appraisal Committee. The project proponents did not attend the meeting. On 25th February 2008, the matter was listed again and the project proponents were asked for clarifications, especially on all court orders related to the project. This time over the EAC took a critical stand on the project owing to submissions of local affected people and environmental groups. As per the EAC, "the EAC is to take a call on if the project would be a B1 or B2 project under the EIA notification 2006. All category B projects are actually to be considered at the State Level; however since the State Level Appraisal Authority in Himachal is yet to be formed the matter is with the MoEF EAC".
• Three separate petitions from Jan Hit Jagran Samiti (Kullu), Him Niti Abhiyan, and EQUATIONS were filed with the EAC demanding "that this project required a Public Hearing considering the extent of environmental and social implications." On March 2008, the EAC finally passed its judgement stating that the project would require an Environment Clearance Public Hearing on it being treated as a B1 project under 8(b) Township and Area Development projects.
On the current status of Himalayan Ski Village, as per latest newspaper reports (dated 2014), it seems that the Congress government has asked for fresh information from the project proponents specifically wrt its financial position . Along with its renewed interest in HSV, the Congress government has also put forward the condition that project proponents would have to seek fresh clearances all over again. Also, the High Court case against HSV was withdrawn soon after the Congress government came into power in 2013. A newspaper report dated August 2014 quotes the ex Chief Secretary of HP stating that the government "does want to create any hurdles in the implementation of the project provided the promoters got all the clearances afresh including the environment and environment impact assessment report."
|Name of conflict:||Himalayan Ski Village, HP, India|
|State or province:||Himachal Pradesh|
|Location of conflict:||Palchan, Manali, District Kullu|
|Accuracy of location||MEDIUM (Regional level)|
|Type of conflict. 1st level:||Tourism Recreation|
|Type of conflict. 2nd level:||Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)|
Land acquisition conflicts
This $ 300 million dollars ski resort was proposed at an altitude of 7,500 and 14,000 ft above sea level on the left bank of the Beas River starting from Palchaan village in Manali. While the built up area would have been spread over an area of 133 acres, the project would have also required access to 6000 acres of the mountain range for skiing activities.
Initial news reports indicated that the project would involve construction of 700-plus hotel rooms of four, five and seven star classes, villas and condominiums, shopping complexes, restaurants, luxurious spa facilities apart from skiing and winter sports facilities.
|Level of Investment for the conflictive project||300,000,000|
|Type of population||Rural|
|Start of the conflict:||2005|
|Relevant government actors:||Government of Himachal Pradesh, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Expert Appraisal Committee, Himachal High Court, District Administration|
|International and Finance Institutions||Naturpolis Ltd from Finland|
Finpro from Finland - As part of these Finnish collaborations, many local skiers were taken on Skiing training Programme to Finland
|Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:||Jan Jangran evam Vikas Samiti, Haripur, District Kullu|
Jan Hit Sangarsh Samiti, Kullu
Him Niti Abhiyan- A State level coalition of people's groups and activists.
|Intensity||MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)|
|Reaction stage||PREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)|
Local government/political parties
|Forms of mobilization:||Creation of alternative reports/knowledge|
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Refusal of compensation
|Environmental Impacts||Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)|
|Other Environmental impacts||Since the project involved making artificial snow on mountain slopes to sustain the tourism potential of the Ski Village around the year, this could have heavily impacted water and irrigation needs of the local population as chemically produced snow requires heavy inputs of both water and power (Kanchi Kohli).|
|Socio-economical Impacts||Potential: Specific impacts on women, Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Other socio-economic impacts|
|Other socio-economic impacts||In recent years, the local environment groups and community leaders have taken a critical stand on small hydropower projects as well proposed on the smaller streams and rivulets around Kullu-Manali. Local public has questioned its very local level social impacts- like disruption of irrigation channels, illegal muck dumping, lack of adequate safety mechanism, impacts on fisheries based livelihoods, diversion of forest land etc. Two prominent cases of small hydro opposition are the Haripur Nallah project and Aleo II hydroproject.|
|Project Status||Proposed (exploration phase)|
|Conflict outcome / response:||Under negotiation|
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
|Proposal and development of alternatives:||One alternative forwarded by the local political representatives entails the upgradation of already existing tourism infrastructure in and around Kullu- Manali town. For local environmental groups, the main issue is that of ownership over their natural resources like land, water and forests. As an alternative, they prefer a tourism model that is locally based and sustainable than a mega project involving huge international capital, and power vested in a few hands. However, it is questionable that the 'locally rooted' tourism model resonates well with aspirations of the younger generation looking for a flourishing tourism 'industry' in region.|
|Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:||Not Sure|
|Briefly explain:||Latest newspaper reports indicate the current Congress Government's interest in reconsidering the Himalayan Ski Village project. Not much information is currently available in public domain. However, the local environmental groups and political representatives (HLP) have maintained their position on the project. Everything depends on how the State Government takes the case of HSV forward.|
|References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries|
|Contributor:||Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh, India (www.himdhara.org) and Daniela Del Bene, ICTA - UAB ( d.delbene_at_gmail.com)|
Protest against Himalayan Ski Village
Protest rally against Himalayan Ski Village in Manali town on 18th June 2007
Protest against Himalayan Ski Village
Protest rally against Himalayan Ski Village in Manali town on 18th June 2007