KENDRAPARA: Luxury boats intended for use by tourists have been gathering dust for four months at a creek in Gupti in Bhitarkanika National Park. “The seven boats worth `7 crore have not been used since August showing authorities’ lack of initiative to promote tourism in Bhitarkanika,” said Naresh Das, a tour operator. Contacted, DFO of the park Bimal Prasan Acharya said that the boats were procured from Goa in 2014 under Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) project for tourists.
He said each boat has the capacity to carry 20 tourists. The vessels are equipped with foolproof safety mechanism. “The boats have been designed to ensure safety of tourists during their visit to the mangrove forest in the park which is home to around 1,700 salt water crocodiles,” the DFO said. He added since the Forest department could not find trained boatmen and crew members, the vessels in 2016 were outsourced to Kerala-based Samudra Shipyards Private Limited for `6 lakh annually to ferry tourists from Gupti to Dangamala within the park.
The service was operated smoothly till August this year. Acharya said the officials of Samudra Shipyards Private Limited were asked to resume the service as soon as possible. On the other hand, Debaduta Swain, supervisor of Samudra Shipyards Private Limited said, “Some crew members and other employees of the firm had left for Kerala to rebuild their houses as they suffered huge losses in the devastating flood in August due to which the service was temporarily stopped.”