Even as the most ambitious tourism project of the State Government – the Shamuka Beach Project – lingers for over six years, the Tourism Department continues to dream big.
It is now planning to set up an oceanarium on 40 acre of land at the Shamuka project site which is being developed near Sipasarubali, about 10 km south of Puri on the public-private partnership (PPP) mode. The oceanarium project would cost around ` 700 crore and will also be implemented in PPP mode.
While earlier there were plans to set up the oceanarium along the Puri-Konark Marine Drive, the department has now decided to shift the project to Shamuka site to cut down establishment cost.
“We had invited agencies experienced in setting up oceanariums from across the world to give suggestions on construction of the project along the Puri-Konark Marine Drive, but they told us that drawing sea water for it would be an expensive affair.
Since there is already land located close to the sea at Shamuka site, we decided to shift the project there,” said HS Upadhyay, Director of Tourism Department, while speaking at the 9th Entrepreneurs’ Week on Thursday.
The department is already constructing an aquarium near the Urban Haat, nearly 200 metre from Puri sea beach. Ahmedabad-based Centre for Environment is constructing this aquarium on 2.404 acre of government land at an estimated cost of ` seven crore.
On the other hand, officials of the Tourism Department present at the meeting informed that Shamuka project is being implemented in a phased manner. “During the first phase, we will call bids for establishment of four five-star hotels and a golf course for the flagship project,” said an official source.
The Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Orissa (Idco) has already handed over 972 acre of land to the Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) for the ` 3,500-crore Shamuka project. The State Government is investing over Rs 50 crore in providing external infrastructure like electricity and water supply for the five-star properties at the site. This apart, the department plans to set up an amusement park on 100 acre of land near Bangar Barapada along Puri-Konark Marine Drive and the bids for this project have been called. Besides, eco-camps in nine acre of land near the existing Lotus Resort is also on the anvil.
Amid these announcements, stakeholders of tourism sector – participating in the meeting – alleged that the Tourism Department has been negligent towards growth of tourism industry.
“We have been demanding a tourism policy for the last seven years. But the Government is yet to address the issue thereby hampering setting up of new hotels in the State,” said president of Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association (HRAO) JK Mohanty.
“Similarly, Government is yet to agree to our single window clearance demand which has become necessary in the wake of restrictions imposed on tribal tourism,” said Benjamin Simone, head of Tour Operators’ Association.