With a fishing boat ferrying picnickers capsizing in Chilika Lake that claimed four lives the day before, safety features in the country’s largest brackish water lagoon has come into the focus. Besides tourist boats, a large number of fishing boats operate from lakeside villages to ferry visitors to exotic locations inside the lagoon.
Such boats operate from jetties like Sabulia, Rambha, Barkul, Balugaon and Satapada. Tourists opt to use these boats since they charge less even if it means compromising on safety, said a tourist boat operator.
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“Since they don’t operate from regular jetties meant for tourists, we don’t have a say. Besides, since they are locals, we don’t want to create an atmosphere of hostility with them,” he said.
The 29 people, who were onboard the ill-fated boat on Saturday had promised a lump sum amount for a two-way journey for the entire group, said Bideshi Mallick, one of the boatmen.
“Apart from bargaining the price, many people prefer fishing boats because the smaller boats give them privacy unlike the bigger tourist boats. Moreover, while tourist boats have fixed timings, the fishing boats offer flexibility in timing,” said Piyush Pradhan, a tourist.
In terms of safety features “many boatmen are not properly trained leading to collisions between boats in middle of the lake,” said another tourist.
Around 1,200 tourist boats operate in the vast waterbody from different lakeside corners of Chilika in Ganjam district.
Assistant Director, Inland water transport (IWT), Balugaon, P K Das said Fisheries department issues licence to fishing boats.
“We will now launch an inquiry about the safety measures of different tourists boats operating in the Chilika,” Das said.