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Goa’s nautical tourism all at sea

At a recently held conference in Panaji, various tourism stakeholders spoke of the need to promote nautical tourism, a neglected sector that could spur development in the state’s inland waterways, writes MICHAEL FISHER

A new paradigm shift was discussed at the recently held nautical tourism conference on the government’s seriousness about branding Goa tourism as the lead contributor to the state GDP. A slew of policies are in the works with emphasis on generating revenue and jobs. The new tourism policies factored in the master plan includes marina policy, floating jetty policy and a single window system for investors, Department of Tourism director Ameya Abhyankar said in his address at the conference. Bring development plans in the open and drive it jointly with the involvement of fishermen and panchayat, suggested industrialist Atul Pai Kane.

a stumbling block

Currently, getting permissions is a nightmare for water transports. Unless licensing norms for yachts is formulated, Goan waters do not welcome yachts, pointed out operators at the event. Daunting issues such as ecological impact assessment and carrying capacity of Goa nautical waters are hampering the movement of yachts in major rivers. The Indian Government has given the power to the states to frame rules under the Inland Vessels Amendment Bill which follows the automobile template to frame rules.

Advantage Maharashtra

The Bombay Maritime Board has authorised the Royal Bombay Yacht Club to register sailing yachts. Therefore, it is gaining much in drawing revenue from licensing of yachts, while Goa is losing for want of a licensing regime. Under the Inland Vessel (IV) Act, vessels registered with neighbouring states can park in Goa waters.

Has the channel been marked in Goa’s rivers for plying leisure vessels, questioned some barge owners.

To make nautical tourism a viable industry, bridges should have a height from water at 30 metres and above for a yacht to pass under. Marinas built in accordance with Marpol standards and designs will be profitable, said Goa yacht charterer Howard Moon from Australian. He said Kerala which has the only marina in India is ill-designed and barely 50 per cent of its berthing is used. For the past 15 years, Howard has been chartering in Goa.

The government is working on a framework to make investor-friendly policies in a single window whereby permission and inputs from CoP, environment, police and other authorities will be ease of entry. And of course all these developments will have to conform to pollution and waste control mechanisms, bio-diversity rules and eco-friendly environments. Apart from governmental bodies and investors, it is a huge responsibility for the citizenry of the state, mentioned Shyam Haridas of Water Splash Cruises.

Stakeholders’ dream

The tourism master plan has been assigned to KPMG and is expected to be announced within two months, hopes Atul Pai Kane. A Rs 50 crore oceanarium project has gone to Punjab which will be set up in Goa.

“We need to promote Goa’s beautiful backwaters,” stated Savio Messias, proprietor of Voyage Celbre. “We need to improve on the existing unused jetties built during the Portuguese time and maybe set up a little restaurant next to the jetties so that the boats could stop for breaks at the restaurants. We may need to build some new jetties on the rivers banks. Years ago, it was accessible to visit the famous ‘Solar Colaco’ house on the banks of the Ribandar waters by boat. Some existing jetties require dredging,” he added.

The Cumbharjua canal is very pleasant and a jetty with a restaurant would be ideal for tourists to have a short break for a Goan meal. High-end tourists would love to do such trips like sunbathing on a yacht as it winds its way in the midst of lush greenery river banks. With Goa boasting a coastline of 105 kms on the Arabian Sea and over 225 kms of inland water ways, it will be at our peril if we do not look at this Nature’s gift as a potential tourism game changer, pointed out Shyam Haridas of Water Splash Cruises.

He feels there is an urgent need to put together a plan that works for all the stakeholders, that includes government, private entrepreneurs, and land owners of river banks and waterfront seashore. The water bodies have huge potential. “If we are aiming to target the high spending tourist to visit Goa instead of going elsewhere, what do we have to offer in terms of a differential?, he questioned.

Chairman of CII-Goa’s tourism panel, Atrey Sawant, suggested that the government should conduct an environment impact assessment for all the five rivers in Goa and commission a study to ascertain where environmental damage can be minimal. Ashwin Tombat also suggested that the government could build small marinas at each river and water bodies for parking 10 to 12 boats.

Chief scientist and deputy director at NIO, Dr Ranadhir Mukhopadhyay, however, cautioned nautical tourism players. “Safeguarding our ecosystem’s health through complete avoidance of outfall of sewage and other wastewaters will be the need to provide the natural biota a lease of life. Similarly, exploiting renewable resources prodigiously and in an idealised nature-friendly manner will be mandatory to sustain forever the coastal marine living resources of Goa. We must evolve a scientific doable method to ensure that the level of the development does not exceed the Goa’s environmental carrying capacity,” he said.

Nautical Tourism manifests itself in marinas, marina developments and river side eateries, developing the inland waterways through riverside promenades, connectivity to villages by river, dolphin and crocodile watching, fish and prawn farming through the age-old method of sluice gate technology (mannos) and adventure water sports. The potential is endless.

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