Ford ski resort plan runs into deity opposition
Tuesday January 17 2006 00:00 IST
SHIMLA: The US automobile giant Ford, which is in the process of setting up
its ambitious $520 million ski village in Himachal Pradesh in northern
India, may now have to appease the local deity to push through its dream

Villagers say Jamlu, the chief deity of Kullu Valley, has objected through
his oracle (or medium) to the company's plan of acquiring a huge patch of
land in the valley for the ski resort as it is bound to pollute the local

The oracle made his objections known in local dialect and attributed them to
Jamlu. He said: "The ski village will pollute the local culture and sacred
spots on hill tops which belong to deities."

"Besides a huge area will be fenced off by the company which will snatch the
traditional rights of the peasants," warned the oracle.


At $520 million the project is being described as the largest foreign direct
investment (FDI) in the country's tourism industry.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is already opposed to the
project, saying it is against the state's interests and the deal with the
company isn't clear so far.

But the ruling Congress has gone ahead with the project by clearing the
preliminary project report (PPR) although it has not provided exclusive
rights to the company.

The state government has already asked the company to submit a detailed
project report (DPR), which is likely to be cleared by March this year. If
cleared, work is likely to begin later this year and will take three years
to complete.

"The investment will take place in three stages - $155 million, 185 million
and $180 million," said John Sims, who heads the Ford company in India,
after the state government asked it to prepare a DPR in November last year.

Almost the entire village will be acquired from local villagers to build 700
five star rooms, 300 Swiss villas and 2,420 food court-type restaurant seats
and a handicrafts village, besides the ski slopes, say company officials.

The base car parking will hold some 1,000 vehicles, and a high tech gondola,
which will ferry 500 passengers every hour to an altitude of 14,000 ft above
sea level.

Jack Zehren, a Colorado based architect, has reportedly been hired to design
the resort to merge with the local traditional Himalayan architecture of
wood and stone houses having pagoda like roofs.

In October last year Alfred Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford, visited
the proposed ski village site near the popular resort town of Manali and met
top officials in Shimla.


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