From the forthcoming tourist season (October-February), tourists visiting Puri would feel the thrill of adventure in the Bay of Bengal. The proposed water sports projects along the coast of Puri beach are likely to be commissioned by October, with the empowered committee on investment, a body of the state government, giving its nod to the projects a few days ago.
“The empowered committee on investment, headed by the chief secretary, has approved the projects, which will be implemented on the beaches in Puri and its outskirts (Chandrabhaga and Ramchandi near Konark),” said state tourism director H S Upadhyay. “A Mumbai-based company has been assigned to commission the water sports in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode,” Upadhyay added.
Each project would cost around Rs 1 crore. The company will develop infrastructure in terms of purchasing water sports equipment like speed boats and water scooters among others for thrilling activities like boating, water-biking, water-skiing and surfing. The state government will also provide space on the beaches to private parties to establish restaurants and cafeterias at the water sports locations.
Tour and travel professionals in Puri hope the inflow of foreign tourists would go up if the water sports project takes off. “At present, tourists do not find varied options of entertainment in Puri. Since foreigners are not allowed into Jagannath temple, they only have the option of enjoying their holiday on the beach. But without any recreation facilities on the beach, foreign visitors do not stay for a longer period,” said Puri-based tour operator Yugabrat Kar. “We can expect good footfall of tourists once the water sports facilities come up,” Kar said.
“The introduction of water sports will not only boost tourism, but also generate employment for lifeguards and security personnel,” said Bhubaneswar-based tour operator Benjamin Simon.
Puri, Chandrabhaga and Ramchandi apart, the government has planned to introduce water sports at 10 different reservoirs in the state. Taking a leaf out of Kerala, the government recently mooted houseboat project in 16 water bodies in PPP mode. The luxury boats will have facilities of three-star hotels, sources said.
It is pertinent to mention here that in 2009 the state tourism department had inaugurated a houseboat project at Barkul in Chilika Lake, but it is struggling for sustenance. The boat, christened Latika, had two luxurious suites, each with a tariff tag of Rs 5,000 per day, sources said. But the service is not available now. “The boat developed some technical snag. It is under repair now. The service will resume soon,” a tourism official at Barkul said.