Odisha plans to develop water sports to lure tourists

The state government of Odisha has identified 24 water bodies, including the Chilika lake, to promote water sports to woo tourists.

“We have decided in consultation with the water resources as well as the commerce and transport departments to develop water sports facilities in these water bodies,” said tourism minister Ashok Chandra Panda, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Odisha.

The state tourism department has formulated a water sports guideline, and the government has constituted a water sports co-ordination committee headed by the chief secretary. Officials of various related departments, including the forest and environment department, have been nominated to the committee.

“The committee will directly supervise the proper management of water sports in the water bodies. It will tender advice how to ensure safety and security of the tourists during the conduct of the water sports,” stated Panda.

Prominent among the 24 water bodies identified for water sports in the lake. The other major identified water bodies include beaches at Puri, Gopalpur, Astarang, Ram Chandi and Jahaniapir, Tampara lake, Mahanadi river, Satkosia gorge and the Hirakud reservoir.

The Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority has been requested to prepare details of the identified water bodies, including the type of water sports to be developed, water level, communication and safety aspects. Besides, it has been asked to assess the tourist handling capacity, said Panda.

The state government has also offered incentives, including subsidy and tax relief, for the entrepreneurs and private promoters to set up water sports facilities in the state.

Tour operators welcomed the decision of the state government to encourage and promote water sports. They suggested that a water sports cell needs to be established within the Directorate of tourism to regulate and promote water sports in Odisha. Moreover, the state water sports advisory committee in consultation with the stakeholders should notify once a year the rates for each type of water sports activity at a specified place.