Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 17 tourism projects around the Statue of Unity (SoU), now called the ‘Kevadia Tourism Circuit’, on his two-day visit to Gujarat, the first since the pandemic struck.
Nestled between the Satpura and Vindhyachal mountain ranges in Kevadia of Narmada district, the 182-metre-high statue dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, built at a cost of Rs 3,000 crore, is said to be the tallest in the world.
Since the SoU was inaugurated in October 2018, the state government has worked to bring Kevadia on the world map of tourism with a cluster of theme-based projects. The government projects the SoU to have an economic impact of Rs 9,000 crore by 2022, which will translate into the socio-economic uplift of the region up to a radius of about 100 km around the statue.
Modi, who spent the entire day inspecting each of these tourist spots, also laid the foundation stone of four new projects that are coming up in the area.
The inaugurations, which were to originally take place on March 26, had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, and were ultimately done to coincide with the 145th birth anniversary celebrations of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on Saturday (October 31).
What is the Kevadia Tourism Circuit?
Kevadia, a village in the tribal Narmada district, is home to the Sardar Sarovar Dam reservoir on the Narmada river, and was a popular picnic spot even before the SoU came up. .📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
The circuit covers 35 tourist spots, out of which the Valley of Flowers, Vishwa Van, Jungle Safari, Cactus Garden, Butterfly Garden, Ekta Nursery, Tent City, Khalvani Eco-tourism, Zarwani Eco-tourism, Nauka Vihar and River Rafting, located around the periphery of the statue and the Narmada Dam, are already open.
Last year, the Gujarat Assembly passed a Bill to establish the Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Authority (SoUTA) that will have powers ranging from acquiring land for any development project in the area, which is predominantly tribal, to taking punitive action against those violating it or encroaching on it.
What are some of the major attractions of the Circuit?
* Sardar Patel Zoological Park and Jungle Safari
The park is spread over an area of 375 acres at seven levels ranging in altitude from 29 metres to 180 metres. It houses more than 100 species of animals and birds, including wallaby (a macropod related to the kangaroo and found in Australia and New Guinea); llama and alpaca (camelid species native to the Andes of South America); giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, gemsbok or oryx, and impala (all native to Africa).
In all, the safari will have 1,100 birds and animals, and will be the only safari of its kind in the country with such a wide range of exotic animals. The animals and birds arrived from different countries last year, and were quarantined for a month, during which some died.
Kevadia is all set to turn into a birdwatcher’s delight. Inaugurated a state-of-the-art aviary, which is a must visit! pic.twitter.com/17ZL3lON2d
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 30, 2020
There are two aviaries, constructed as geodesic domes, claimed to be among the largest in the world: the Indian Aviary is 150 m long, 50 m wide, and 15 m high; the Exotic Aviary is 125 m long, 35 m wide and 18 m high. In the petting zone, tourists can pet a macaw, cockatoo, Persian cat, rabbit, guinea pig, turkey, goose, and miniature pony, sheep, and goat.
* Children’s Nutrition Park
The park is billed as the “world’s first technology driven Nutrition Park”. It will offer a “nutri-train” ride on a 600-m track around the 35,000 sq m park, passing through five theme-based stations: “Phalshaka Griham”, “Payonagari”, “Annapoorna”, “Poshan Puram” and “Swastha Bharatam”.
Each of the stations has a mascot — for example, “Kumar Kisan”, a puppet farmer who tells the story of how he grows fruits and vegetables at Phalshakha; an animated cow grazer “Janardhan” at Payonagri, who explains the importance of milk; and a doting mother at Annapoorna.
The stations have interactive games to instill the value of healthy foods in children. There is also a five-minute-long 5D animation film on India’s “unity in food diversity”, with animated characters talking of food habits in the West, East, North and South of India.
* The Mirror Maze
It has a 5D virtual reality (VR) theatre and augmented reality (AR) games to enhance nutritional awareness through entertainment.
* Carnival look
The 8.5 km stretch of road from Ekta Dwar to the Sardar Sarovar Dam is decorated with colourful motifs and lights that lend the area a festive, carnival appearance after sunset. The Unity Glow garden, spread over around 3.61 acres, is a unique theme park developed with glimmering installations, figures, and optical illusions.
* Riverfront cycling tour
This starts from the Valley of Flowers parking. It is a family-friendly guided bicycle tour that includes small-frame kids bicycles and regular bicycles for adventure enthusiasts. There is also a tandem cycle tour available for couples, as well as electric cycles.
* The Gardens
The Cactus Garden is a grand greenhouse with 450 national and international species of cactii and other plants from 17 countries. The area of its dome is 836 sq m, and the garden has an open area of 25 acres. There are 6 lakh plants, including 1.9 lakh cactii, 1.6 lakh succulent plants, and 2.5 lakh ornamental plants.
The Aarogyavan is spread over an area of about 17 acres, has 5 lakh plants of 380 different species. It also has an aarogya kutir, set up in association with the Thiruvananthapuram-based Santhigiri Wellness Centre. This is a traditional Kerala treatment facility that provides modern holistic healthcare, ayurveda, siddha, yoga and panchkarma.
Some of the therapies available at the wellness centre include abhyangam (synchronised body massage), shirodhara (for neurological disorders, insomnia, migraine and stress), and shirovasti (beneficial for strokes and hypertension).
* The cruises
A ferry boat service called the Ekta Cruise, goes from Shrestha Bharat Bhavan to the Statue of Unity, covering a distance of 6 km downstream on the Narmada over 40 minutes. The cruise has two vessels: Unity-1, a two-deck catamaran certified to carry 200 passengers, and which can provide a dinner cruise with a 160-sq-foot performance stage on the upper deck; and Unity-2, a high-speed monohull boat that can carry up to 25 passengers, with a travel time of 25 minutes.
* Dynamic lighting on Sardar Sarovar Dam
Special lights have been put up at the Sardar Sarovar dam 3.5 km from the SoU. There is the Ekta Mall, a two-storey store housing a diverse range of handicraft and traditional items from various Indian states, which has been promoted as a one-stop shop for handicrafts.
How can tourists reach the SoU, and where can they stay?
What is billed as India’s first commercial sea plane service will connect the SoU to the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad. Modi rode the flight from Kevadia to Ahmedabad. The service is operated by Spice Jet’s subsidiary Spice Shuttle under the UDAN scheme. The one-way fare is likely to be Rs 1,500.
A ropeway is coming up across the Narmada dam, connecting the two banks of the Narmada river. The proposed ropeway will pass over the Valley of Flowers, Unity Glow Garden, downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam and Cactus Garden and give tourists a panoramic view of the SoU and the Dam reservoir, which is also the meeting point of the three states, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
About 116 houses in 22 villages around the SoU have been identified to make 252 rooms available for tourists wishing to enjoy an experience of a homestay in a tribal village. The spare rooms in homes of families have been renovated for the purpose, which aims to generate income for the host families.
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What will be the cost for the tourist?
The entry fee to the SoU will be Rs 150 for adults and Rs 90 for children. To go up to the viewing gallery located at 150 m at the chest of the giant statue, the tickets are Rs 380 for adults and Rs 230 for children. Bookings are available online.
The most expensive attraction on the circuit is river rafting, which costs Rs 1,000 per head.
A full tour package will cost Rs 2,980 for adults and Rs 2,500 for children for a regular visit to the viewing gallery. An express ticket to the viewing gallery, skipping the queue, will cost extra.
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