Environment notice to Wildflower Hall stayed

Shimla, May 28 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh High Court Friday stayed the notice of the state pollution control board to Oberoi Group’s Wildflower Hall hotel, issued earlier this week, for violating environment norms.

A division bench of Justice R.B. Misra and Justice V.K. Ahuja, while staying the notice, directed the government and the pollution control board to file a reply within four weeks.

Contesting the state pollution control board notice, the Oberoi Group subsidiary Mashobra Resort Company, that runs the Wildflower Hall, informed the high court that the hotel has proper functional sewerage treatment plant. Moreover, the board has not given the 15-day notice to the Wildflower Hall.

The notice was issued to the hotel for allegedly discharging sewage into a natural drain in forests adjoining the hotel.

Pollution control panel member-secretary Nagin Nanda said the discharge from the hotel is contaminating drinking water sources of more than 12 villages located in the hotel vicinity.

Wildflower Hall, at Charabra at a height of 8,300 feet amid thick verdant forests of pine and cedar, is sought after by high-end tourists, celebrities and politicians. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka, who is constructing her cottage near the hotel, are among the frequent visitors there.

Nanda said the pollution control board officials, acting on the complaint of the villagers, found that the hotel was discharging the treated sewage water, meant for irrigating hotel gardens, into the drain.

‘We have collected water and soil samples from the nearby villages and found that these are getting contaminated due to discharge of effluents,’ the official said.

Wildflower Hall was once the residence of the commander-in-chief of the British Army.

After India’s independence, the building was handed over to the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation for running a hotel. It was gutted in a fire in 1992. The government in 1995 handed over the property to the Oberois to re-construct it into a luxury spa.

At that time, the cost of constructing the 85-room hotel was pegged at Rs.400 million.

Besides Wildflower Hall, the Oberoi Group has two other hotels in Shimla – Clarke’s and Cecil.