A DAY after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Bangladesh High Commissioner in India, Syed Muazzem Ali, officials on Tuesday said a river cruise service is likely to be launched by the end of this year between the two countries.
While guidelines for the cruise are yet to be formulated, Arvind Kumar, Assistant Director for Inland Waterways Authority of India, said the same was being “finalised”.
Vivada Cruises, which will be a partner in running the service, said the cruise is likely to be a 14-day affair traversing through the Sunderbans mangrove forest in India and Bangladesh. The parent body of Vivada Cruises, Vivada Inland Waterways Limited, is the largest inland waterways company in India.
The cruise will look to work alongside the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BWITC), which at present allows only cargo vessels to cross the border via waterways.
Improving tourism, particularly international tourism, in the Sunderbans — a UNESCO heritage site — has been on the cards for the Bengal government since 2011. Most recently, Tourism Minister Gautam Deb had reiterated the government’s intention to boost tourism. “We are charting plans to better utilise the tourism potential of the state. At the same time, we intend to highlight new areas of tourist interest and create a traveler-friendly ambience,” he had said.
Officials said the prime concern for both Bangladeshi and Indian authorities was to ensure that the sensitive ecological balance of Sunderbans was not sacrificed while promoting tourism. “Take for instance, the increase in sea level and its impact on the Sundari trees that form the backbone of the ecosystem here. The trees are very sensitive to increase in salinity and as a result are facing extinction. If the trees die, the entire ecosystem will collapse. Suddenly, Bangladesh and India will have no protection from cyclones. Tourism ventures need to take into account these concerns,” said an official.