Water sports, sailing? Maharashtra has dam good plans for you
Hundreds of acres of vacant land owned by the water resources department near 3,255 dams in Maharashtra will now be opened up for tourism and development of recreational facilities.
The policy, which was cleared in a state cabinet meeting on Tuesday, also allows privatisation of guest houses, resthouses and bungalows near dams and reservoirs for tourism purposes through a public-private-partnership (PPP) model. This is a first-of-its-kind policy, as, so far, development was restricted in these areas.
The water resources department has 138 big dams, 255 medium and 2,862 minor dams, and each of them have open plots admeasuring five to 400 acres. According to officials, these plots will now be used for water sports, sailing, windsurfing, amusement park and theme park.
“We have decided to follow section 18 and 19 and Irrigation Development Corporation Acts, 1997 (all five irrigation corporations of the state have their own acts) that allow efforts to promote tourism and water sports. Nobody took the initiative in the past 22 years. We are going to follow the provisions,” said IS Chahal, principal secretary, water resources department.
The government will demarcate restricted and regulated areas, where tourism facilities can be developed, with an eye on security near dams and reservoirs. “The government has hundreds of acres of land reserved near major dams for future expansion of the project, which will now be used to promote tourism activities,” Chahal said. “Across the world, dams are opened for tourism purposes. A case in point is Hoover dam in the US. We will call for bids. We plan to allow bidders to take over the land, develop it, earn and share the revenue with us.”
In August 2018, the state government formed a six-member committee headed by the executive director of the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation and chief engineers of all five irrigation development corporations to submit a report on the issue. “The committee submitted a positive report in December 2018, following which the government has decided to go ahead with the plan,” said a senior official.
Chahal said they have 147 resthouses near dams and reservoirs, which could not be maintained for lack of maintenance grants. The policy will take care of maintenance of these structures and generate employment for locals.
The state will also study the tourism policy of states such as Rajasthan and Kerala to prepare its tender document.