VIJAYAWADA: With the sole intention to promote river tourism, the State Government gave permission to private boat operators in hugger-mugger without verifying the safety norms. For this, the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) had to swallow a bitter pill with the recent tourist boat mishap near Pavitra Sangamam Ghat where 22 persons had to bite the dust. As per norms, the tourism department has no authority to permit boat operations in the river without getting permission from the Irrigation department and River Conservation Authority.
According to the APTDC officials, the corporation has entered into MoUs with Goa-based Champion Yacht Club, Amaravati Boating Club (Watersports and Boating), Watersports Simple India Private Limited and River Boating and Adventures Partners to provide water sports. Most of them are operating services without availing proper route maps from Irrigation department, River Conservation Authority and No Objection Certificate (NOC) from fire safety services.
‘’A majority of the tourists are attracted to the sheen and shimmer of private boat operators and hence opt for them rather than APTDC. On several occasions, the private plyers on Punnami Ghat lure tourists and operate services to Bhavani Island without providing life jackets and ensuring safety measures,’’ said a senior APTDC official on condition of anonymity. However, the corporation has a standard base of tourists opting for boat rides, he added.
Speaking to TNIE on condition of anonymity, a private boating company operator said they are following all the norms but unfortunately a blunder committed by one of the fellow operator has become a blot for the entire community. “We are also concerned about tourists’ safety while operating water sports on the river. Not even a single mishap has been reported from upstream Prakasam Barrage between Punnami Ghat and Bhavani Island in the last two years. However, the mishap has created a ripple and has made us more alert to take more precautionary measures before undertaking a ride,’’ he said.