To give Elephanta Caves a major facelift, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis last week approved a Rs 344.37 crore development plan. While the plan does not include some of the ambitious proposals considered earlier, including accommodation for visitors to stay overnight, water sports and a helipad, the UNESCO world heritage site would see its aesthetic value restored.
Nearly two years after a detailed project report was prepared by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), state officials said a “watered down” plan was underway for heritage conservation, including a Rs 99.87 crore investment from MTDC and Rs 251.50 crore to be raised through PPP.
Officials added the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model was agreed to fund a ropeway project for the public, which would be an alternative way to reach the Elephanta island besides taking a ferry.
“Elephanta Caves see an annual footfall of nearly seven lakh visitors and are one of the must-visit places around Mumbai. It will be soon of world-class standards. The facelift will include several amenities for the public and also use of many eco-friendly methods for toilets and dustbins,” said Valsa Nair Singh, Principal Secretary, Tourism & Culture, Maharashtra Government.
Tourism officials added that a “craft bazaar” would also be set up for vendors. “There will be nature trails organised in the area. This should become an ideal day trip destination,” a senior government official said, adding the state government had set a target of six months to complete phase I of the facelift.
Due to the Elephanta island’s proximity to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, a highly-protected installation, the overnight stay concept was dismissed, officials said.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) also shot down the proposal to create a helipad at the heritage site, thwarting any scope for heli-tourism in the area.
“Everything that was doable by the ASI standards has been cleared. The design, layout, elevation shall maintain the sanctity of heritage for existing monuments and the surrounding structures and there shall be no damage to the monument,” an official said.
A new jetty would be constructed at the Gateway of India, tenders for which would be floated. “It will be easier to ferry a boat to the Elephanta Caves. The journey to the caves will be a better experience,” said a government official.