Marina with boats

View from India: Aqua Calling

Image credit: Dreamstime/Svetlin Yosifov

Byndoor in the Udupi district of Karnataka is to be the base for the country’s first marina.

Basavaraj Bommai, the chief minister (CM) of Karnataka, has announced to the media that the coastal region of the state in south-west India has the potential to be one of the top attractions of the country.

The CM recently unveiled the Seven Wonders of Karnataka, organised by the Karnataka Tourism Department. Selected and shortlisted from 5,000 nominated places, the final list is: Hirebenakal Rock Tombs, Hampi, Gomateshwara, Gol Gumbaz, Mysore Palace, Jog Falls and Netrani Island. The seven places fall into categories like land, water, forests, mountains, vastu [principles of building design], science, history, tradition and heritage.

The focus is on the marina. And why not, as the state has 350km of coastal area, 10 different weather zones, 400km of the Western Ghats, a rich biodiversity where the sun rays shine for 300 days, and also several rivers. Clearly this is nature’s bounty.

Udupi is a temple town, and the upcoming marina will give it a new dimension; it is a thrust towards coastal tourism. The state government plans to approach the central government to relax the coastal regulation zone (CRZ). Once this happens, beach tourism in coastal areas as well as pilgrim tourism could be promoted. All this is being planned among other initiatives that revolve round historical events, personalities and natural bounties.

Simply put, a marina is a specially designed recreational area for small boats and yachts. It could be great if these small boats and yachts connect the dots between metrics around challenges like plying on renewable energy. Some commentators are pointing out that marinas are not just only fun places. Those with an inclination may even learn to sail, besides learning a thing or two about the marine environment.

Going beyond media reports, let’s try to look at the nautical tourism scenario. Agreeably it appears to be a pleasurable leisure activity. It could mean different things to different people, an outing, stress-buster or the sheer joy of sailing. Then in that case, it can also be a profitable venture. For example, water travel could be clubbed with water sports. The gear and other equipment required for water sports becomes an allied industry. The chain reaction could continue as it may become a business proposition for suppliers, manufacturers and service professionals. Vessel maintenance could be another economic option, providing an income for tool suppliers. One could navigate through the entire nautical ecosystem for opportunities.

Nautical tourism takes into account deep sea cruising, inland-river and canal boating, offshore fishing, water skiing, jet skiing, canoeing, and kayaking and rafting, among others.  Then there’s the on-shore and off-shore functions. The on-shore subsystems extend to the marinas and their environment. While the off-shore subsystem takes into account all the technical-technological systems on the water and/or sea in the function of the nautical market. If we were to look at both on-shore and off-shore activities it could result in new openings to meet the demand pie. Of course, water safety is a crucial and caution needs to be exercised.

What is important about marine tourism is that it can provide employment for people in the surrounding areas. Local communities can thrive by developing local supply chains, and promoting local culture. The local economy could improve if the local community is employed. More than anything else, it should evolve into an ecofriendly activity. Also it needs to be a form of sustainable tourism, wherein marine pollution should be avoided. Rather, the marine resources along with habitat of the marine animals should be preserved.

The Union Budget 2023-2024 has announced that coastal shipping will be promoted as the energy efficient and lower cost mode of transport, both for passengers and freight, through private-public partnerships with viability gap funding.

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