The NGT verdict came on a plea filed by environmentalist Rajendra Tiwari, who also runs an NGO that works for Nahargarh forest reservation.
Days after National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered the closure of all commercial activities from December 1, including restaurants and light and sound show, at the Nahargarh Fort near Jaipur, the Archeology and Museum department of Rajasthan said it plans to take the matter to Supreme Court.
“We feel like our side wasn’t well-represented. While the court’s judgement has to be respected, we will go to the SC to keep our point forward and appeal for our rights,” said Krishankanta Sharma, Deputy Director, Department of Archeology and Museums, Rajasthan.
The NGT verdict came on a plea filed by environmentalist Rajendra Tiwari, who also runs an NGO that works for Nahargarh forest reservation. In his plea, Tiwari said the Nahargarh area was declared as reserved forest land and came under the purview of the central government. Yet, the plea further states, commercial activities — including restaurants, wax museum, light and sound show — are operating under the Archeology and Museum department of the state government.
Currently, there are three restaurants functioning within Nahargarh Fort. While the fort closes at 5 pm, the restaurants have been allowed to operate from 10 am to 10 pm.
Tiwari termed the functioning of the restaurants as “illegal activities”.
Talking to indianexpress.com, Tiwari said, “There have been illegal activities going on from 10 am to 10 pm. Tourists drink at the bar and get into accidents. Numerous accidents have been reported at night, then why are activities continuing at the fort until 10 pm?”
Talking about the earnings from the commercial activities, Tiwari added, “The earnings go to ADMA [Amber Development & Management Authority], which comes under the Archaeology department. We want all commercial activities to stop so that Nahargarh can be viewed as the reserve forest that it is. It should come under the forest department so they can host eco-tourism and the earnings should also go to the forest department and spent on Nahargarh Sanctuary.”
Tiwari said his NGO had earlier approached the forest department but they didn’t get any support. “Since the government was the violator, no one could do anything. We wanted the violation to stop immediately, hence we approached NGT. It shouldn’t stop here. An FIR should be registered against ADMA, Archaeology department and tourism department and they should be made to pay penalty for these illegal activities taking place at Nahargarh.”
Responding to the plea, the Archeology and Museums department said that Nahargarh fort had been declared an ‘ancient monument’ in 1951 and hence comes under the department for protection and maintenance.
“Tourists move within the fort wall, how does it affect flora and fauna? People come to see Nahargarh fort from around the world, we want it to be a good experience. Restaurants, light and sound show and wax museum are a part of that experience,” said an Archeology department official at Nahargarh.
The manager of a restaurant functioning within Nahargarh fort said, “If they shut the restaurant, tourism will incur a huge loss because eventually, all the income goes to the government. The restaurant is within the fort wall, it is very peaceful and tourists love to sit here and get the city’s view. I don’t understand how this affects wildlife.”
The forest department in their response to the plea had told NGT that the Fort area had been declared reserve forest and “no right was determined or awarded to run non-forest activity in the Fort area”. Talking about commercial activities operating from 10 am to 10 pm, the forest department said that “the timing itself explicates the exploitation inflicted by mankind”.
Arindam Tomar, Chief Wildlife Warden, Rajasthan Forest Department, said, “Court judgement has been passed and since both departments [Archeology department and Forest department] are government departments, what happens next is going to be the government’s decision.”
Ajay Chittora, Conservator of Forests, said, “Since it is an inter-departmental issue, the Collector of Jaipur will enforce a decision based on the judgement. The Collector will hold a meeting and whatever is decided, we will comply with.”
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