It has been around 10 days since the Sukhna Lake has been rendered lifeless with a ban on entry to the main tourist hub, owing to the bird flu scare after a domesticated geese was tested with avian influenza on December 17.
The ban has not only affected the daily routine of morning and evening walkers who have been coming to the lake for all these years, but it has also hit the business hard. In last 10 days, the business worth Rs 30 lakh has been affected due to ban on entry at Sukhna.
The Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO) itself is suffering a loss of Rs 2 lakh everyday with the closure of the Lake Club, cafeteria and boating activity.
Besides this, other shopkeepers who have rented out the kiosks and commercial space at the lake for offering eateries, games and adventure sports, are also suffering major losses as they also have to pay the monthly rent to CITCO for the space hired on lease.
There are total five kiosks offering artificial jewellery, photography, and eatables at the lake. The visitors are also offered game activities such as bungee jumping, toy train and other adventure sports by some other shopkeepers.
The contractors, who pay monthly rent to the administration, have not earned even a single penny. They claim this is the time when they earn the most, as December is the vacation time and many tourists from all parts of the country turn up to enjoy different activities at the lake. Kavita Singh, managing director (MD), CITCO, said following the closure of the lake, they were running into losses. “But the safety of human life also has to be kept in mind. In last 10 days, CITCO has lost the business worth around Rs 18 lakh. And by the end of 30 days, it will reach up to `50 lakh,”said the MD. Singh also agreed that the ones who paid rent to CITCO for running businesses were in a double whammy that there business was non-functional and had to pay the hefty rent too.
Santosh Kumar and his partners, who run businesses at the lake pay around Rs 9 lakh per month rent for managing confectionary booth, bungee jumping, juice corner and quick snacks, said they had suffered a major loss due to the ban on entry. “The administration should review the decision. And if all samples are found to be negative, the period of ban should be reduced.”
Avtar Singh and Pawan Kumar, other shopkeepers, said, “We don’t know how we will cover the losses. Beside the rent, we also have to pay the salaries of our employees.”
They added, “We also met local member of Parliament (MP) Kirron Kher and urged that the rent for the time when the lake is non-functional, should be waived off. The administration should also consider reducing the days of ban considering heavy losses.”
Also, there are around five to 10 small-time unauthorised vendors who keep moving and offer cut fruits. There are others who earn quick money by making sketches of the visitors. The shopkeepers are also considering meeting UT adviser Vijay Dev and taking up the issue of ban with him. Meanwhile, UT adviser Vijay Dev said, “I will definitely consider the representation of shopkeepers and review it.”