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A stay in the woods

Archana Phull/ SNS | Shimla |

Already popular for home stays in the interior areas, the pictursque hill state of Himachal Pradesh is now offering stay in the woods to tourists at many places.
Official sources said the HP State Forest Development Corporation has finalised 33 eco-tourism sites in different forest areas of the state in the first phase.
The corporation would shortly invite bids for the eco-tourism sites, which are located across the state, including tribal area, from the private players.
Six eco-tourism sites are already functional in the state in private sector, including those near Shimla and Dalhousie, but they are with the forest department.
Some of them has been a hit as nature resorts, with a large number of tourists coming to enjoy the state’s ecology, living in tents, deep in forests.
For them, it is nature’s bounty with adventure.
The government had taken to the concept of eco-sites some years ago as it brings quality tourism without the need of concrete infrastructure for stay.
“It is for the first time that the corporation would take up this job. The players, who get the sites, will have to abide by the conditions laid down by the corporation and may be given the sites for ten years. They will have to run their tourism ventures in tented accommodation, without disturbing the ecology and the forest land,” vice chairman of the HP State Forest Corporation, Kewal Singh Pathania told The Statesman.
He said the corporation has been running in losses for long as the traditional jobs don’t fetch it profits due to changing priorities on timber. 
“More so, the green felling was banned in HP in 80s, so the corporation’s duties got limited to removal of the waste from the forests. The eco-tourism task would improve financial condition of the Corporation,” the vice chairman added. 
Pathania said the corporation, which was running two eco-sites with its own staff, at Narkanda in Shimla and Jalori Pass in Kullu has given them in the private hands now as it too was turning out to be a loss making venture. “Our staff was unable to run it professionally,” he admitted.
The corporation plans to hold a meet of the private players in the tourist business to know their expectations. 
Sources said even if the Himachalis are unable to win the bids for the eco-tourism sites for the expenditures involved, it would be a binding on all the entrepreneurs to give jobs to 70 per cent Himachalis in the eco-tourism ventures.
A website is being launched for the eco-tourism sites of Himachal Pradesh.