KENDRAPARA: Tourism sector in the district has taken a hit after the tragic Hukitola boat mishap which claimed lives of 10 persons, including eight children, on January 2.
Following the mishap, the administration has banned fishing boats which were used to ferry tourists to Hukitola, Batighar, Agaranasi, Madali and other islands in the Bay of Bengal. This being the peak tourist season, the move has hit the tourism industry in the district.
The ban has also affected many seaside marine fishermen and locals of Kharinashi, Batighar, Jamboo, Ramanagar and other nearby areas who depend on tourism activities during winter season.
Divisional Forest Officer of Bhitarkanika National Park Bimal Prasanna Acharya said the Forest department is in charge of Hukitola island. It is mandatory for tourists to wear life jackets on boats. “We have also made it mandatory for all private boat owners to get fitness certificates from the Inland Water Transport department to ferry tourists in their vessels,” he said.
Hukitola and the 182-year-old lighthouse at Batighar island in Mahakalapada block are major attractions for tourists in winter season. “I was forced to cancel the trip of some tourists to Hukitola on Sunday after the authorities banned fishing boats. Though it is a welcome step on the part of the administration to ban unsafe boats, it is also the duty of authorities to deploy proper and safe boats for tourists,” said Bhaskar Chandra Das, a tour operator of Kendrapara.
The boat tragedy has affected the flow of tourists to Hukitola and Batighar. Both the islands witness a huge footfall of tourists from October to March, said Arjun Das of Batighar.
Two years back, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) completed the restoration and renovation work of century-old colonial building at Hukitola at a cost of around `2 crore to draw more tourists to the island. The building was constructed in 1888 to store rice from Burma and other places after the infamous famine in Odisha in 1866. Hukitola island was also used as a harbour during the British Raj.