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Friday, January 28, 2022

Mumbai: Amid surge in cases, various holiday spots closed for tourists

Several hill stations like Matheran, Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar have imposed restrictions. Local businesses and hoteliers have raised concerns over the dip in footfall of tourists.

Written by Yogesh Naik | Mumbai |
Updated: January 14, 2022 12:47:39 am
Pallavi Patil, Chief officer of the Mahabaleshwar Municipal Council, said that they have shut the Venna lake point for boating. (Express File Photo)

In view of the surge in Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra and in line with the state government’s guidelines, several curbs have been imposed at hill stations near Mumbai, with the local authorities closing down some of the popular spots, including tiger reserves and national parks.

The Matheran Municipal Council on Tuesday closed several tourist spots at the hill station. The order issued by Matheran Chief Executive Officer Surekha Bhange included the Charlotte Lake, Alexander Point, Rambag point, Big Chowk Point, One tree hill point, Eco point, Louisa point, Coronation point, Sunset point and the Monkey point for tourists. The mini-train from Aman Lodge to Matheran is still operational.

At 800 metres above sea level, Matheran is one of the closest hill stations to Mumbai and is frequently visited by Mumbaikars.

Several hoteliers and allied organisations have written letters to the Matheran Municipal Council asking it to not take such drastic steps.

Bhange confirmed that she had received representations from organisations, but the Collector’s order regarding the closure was final. She added that footfall in Matheran reduced to 450 persons on Wednesday, as against the usual 2,500 per day.

Asha Kadam, President of Ashvapal Sangathana, which represents horse owners of Matheran, said, “We are giving a letter to the CO to open all points. We have to dip in savings. Our incomes have dipped in the last two years and it is difficult to feed horses.’’

Meanwhile, Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar, the twin hill stations located in the Satara district of Western Maharashtra, have also introduced restrictions for tourists.

Girish Dapkekar, Chief Officer of Panchgani Municipal Council said that all four spots in his area were closed for tourists as a matter of precaution.

Similarly, Pallavi Patil, Chief officer of the Mahabaleshwar Municipal Council, said that they have shut the Venna lake point for boating, a place where people conglomerate. “The forest department has closed down several of their points visited by tourists,” she said.

Patil added, “All hotels in our areas are working with 100 per cent occupancy. Tourists have to show double vaccine certificates before coming to our hill station. We used to get 2,000 tourists every day and now we barely get 200 tourists.”

Satara Collector Shekhar Singh said that he had issued an order regulating tourists points due to a state order banning entry to people in forts, museums and other places.

Pune District Collector Rajesh Deshmukh, meanwhile, said, “We have closed down points in Lonavala-Khandala and other places in the Pune district which are frequented by tourists and the order was issued by our district Disaster Management Authority. I had got a list of tourist points from our Superintendent of Police.’’

All tiger reserves, national parks and sanctuaries, including the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Karnala sanctuary, have also been closed for tourists.

A senior Indian Forest Service officer said, “We had to close down all protected areas as per government order. Whereas, a woman who runs a canteen service in Karnala said, “We have closed down our canteen from Monday and will have to spend a few more days without income.’’

Elephanta Caves off the Mumbai coast have been closed, as well. Rajendra Padte, a former sarpanch of Gharpuri village, where the Elephanta caves are located, said, “Now we get just one or two boats of tourists per day. Local businesses have suffered a lot.’’

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