Siliguri, Sept. 4: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today said the state government was planning to build a “New Darjeeling” close to Algarah in Kalimpong subdivision to attract more tourists to north Bengal.
“We want to build a New Darjeeling close to Algarah in Kalimpong. It is necessary to develop similar tourist destinations like Darjeeling to bring in more tourists,” Mamata told reporters at Shorea Park on the outskirts of Siliguri off NH31 this afternoon.
“Some more sites have been selected by the district magistrates (of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri) as prospective tourist destinations. We will soon discuss the development of these places and take a decision.”
Today, the chief minister was on her way to Bagdogra airport from Kalimpong after a three-day visit to the hills when she stopped at Shorea Park for 15 minutes.
The state has taken up a project to put in more facilities at Shorea Park and convert it into Safari Park.
North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb and senior officials from Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts and police officers accompanied Mamata as she walked around Shorea Park and spoke to reporters.
Algarah , around 15km away from Kalimpong town, is a tiny hilly hamlet at an altitude of around 5,800 feet and has a population of about 3,000.
The Damsang Fort, which was built by a Lepcha king in 1690, is in Algarah, a junction from which roads lead to Kalimpong, Dooars and Sikkim.
Although, Mamata did not elaborate on her plan to build a “New Darjeeling”, hill residents welcomed the idea.
“Darjeeling is getting overcrowded with each passing day. Sewerage and water supply are poor and the roads are narrow. During tourism season, the place gets overcrowded,” said Pramod Thapa, a businessman based in Darjeeling. “If a planned hill town is developed near Algarah, it would help local people and also provide more options to visitors.”
Today, the chief minister also spoke about the proposed Safari Park. “It will come up on a 700 acre plot and Rs 265 crore would be spent. Work has already commenced and we intend to finish the first phase of the project by December next year.”
The park would come up on the fringes of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary under the Salugara range of Baikunthapur forest division.
“In the first phase, infrastructure would be developed and further work would be taken up in another one or one-and-a-half year’s time. We would introduce elephant rides and bus services for tourists. There would be a pathway along which visitors can walk and enjoy wildlife.”
According to an official, in the first phase, fencing, laying of roads and culverts and landscaping would be done at the site.
Mamata said: “The Safari Park, which would be a one-of-its-kind project in the state, would bring in several tourists to north Bengal. People who are interested in visiting the hills and the forests can have a unique experience at the park.”