Tourism Sector

Ganga Vilas: A boost to riverine tourism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MV ganga Vilas cruise

Mains level : Tourism economy

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Context

  • The travel-tourism-hospitality sector got a symbolic boost on Friday, with the Prime Minister launching the MV Ganga Vilas from Varanasi. The luxury 51-day cruise operated in partnership with private players by the Inland Waterways Authority will traverse several states, two countries and make stops at about 50 tourist and heritage sites along the Ganga and Brahmaputra River systems.

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All you need to know about MV Ganga Vilas

  • MV Ganga Vilas is the first indigenously made and the world’s longest river cruise
  • The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways is the coordinator of this ship tourism project.
  • The cruise has three decks, 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists, with all the modern amenities and avoids river pollution.
  • It has its own sewage treatment plant besides a water treatment plant that lifts water from the river for daily use.
  • The cruise has a gymnasium, a spa, restaurant, sunbath deck and other amenities on board to entertain the tourists and also to provide them a comfortable experience.

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Journey of MV Ganga Vilas

  • From Varanasi to Dibrugarh: Set to sail from Varanasi, the cruise ship, MV Ganga Vilas, will cover 3,200 km over 51 days, crossing 27 river systems and several states before ending its journey at Dibrugarh.
  • It will cover World heritage sites: The voyage is packed with visits to 50 tourist spots, including World Heritage spots, national parks, river ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Guwahati in Assam.
  • Pilgrimage plus environmental tourism: It will make pit-stops to cover the famous Ganga Arti in Varanasi, the Buddhist site of Sarnath; and even Majuli, the largest river island in Assam.

What are the concerns highlighted?

  • Silting and pollution of rives must be addressed on priority: Two of the greatest threats to India’s rivers silting and pollution must be addressed.
  • Employment generation must go hand-in-hand with ecological repair: Both the PM and Shipping & Ports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal have cited the jobs that riverine tourism could bring to states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam. But employment generation must go hand-in-hand with ecological repair.

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Way ahead

  • Involve local communities: For the government to realise its goal to increase cruise passenger traffic from 4 lakh people to nearly 10 times that figure. But this growth, to be sustainable, must involve local communities.
  • Smaller vessels could be involved: While there is potential for larger, luxury liners, riverine tourism could also expand and cater to travellers from different economic strata. Also, smaller vessels may pose less of an ecological challenge.
  • Lesson to be learnt from Kerala: While the Centre’s push in the sector, with the PM as the face, is welcome, states and the private sector too must be brought on board. There is, for example, much that east Indian states can learn from how Kerala monetizes and maintains its backwaters.
  • Further expansion with worlds best practices: The Ganga cruise, though, should be just a beginning in tapping the unrealized potential of India’s numerous and diverse river systems for tourism. At the same time, the expansion must take into account the best practices from around India and the world, while ensuring local communities and the environment are not given short shrift.

Conclusion

  • The hospitality sector is labor-intensive and can provide some of the formal jobs that a transitioning Indian economy so desperately needs. And given the growing global market for ecologically-conscious travel, India can if it is meticulous and enterprising in its planning protect its rivers and create jobs at the same time.

Mains question

Q. Recently government launched MV Ganga Vilas cruise. Discuss how it will change the face of tourism in India?

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