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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Sun and sand,minus the swig

Diveagar,a beachside village along the Konkan coast,has a no-alcohol policy,yet tourists get drawn to it

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Diveagar |
May 29, 2011 2:11:35 am

A beach festival and no liquor? Diveagar,a beachside village along the Konkan coast,has pulled off the impossible—it has a no-alcohol policy in place and yet has tourists coming in hordes to soak in the sun on its white sandy beach.

Barely 160 km from Pune and 175 km from Mumbai,Diveagar’s six-km-long beach is among the most beautiful,virgin beaches along the Konkan coast. On one end of the beach is a fishing settlement while the other end is a sanctuary for migratory seagulls who fly in to the creek waters. The beach is lined with Suru trees that are common in coastal Maharashtra. A canopy of Belu trees leads up to the beach. There are no shops selling trinkets and you can’t hit the dance floor at the disco or meet fellow vacationers at the lounge for card games. And then,the ban on alcohol—not a single wadi/hotel or resort serves alcohol here. Yet,this village counted nearly three lakh tourists last year.

The tourist figures are increasing,says Uday Bapat,sarpanch of Diveagar. Three years ago,the gram sabha unanimously resolved not to allow beer bars to be set up at Diveagar. What prompted the resolution was the discovery of a Ganesh idol in gold in one of the betel farms in the village.

The gram panchayat has also introduced a ‘tax’ of Rs 2 per tourist visiting Diveagar. Bapat says the money will be used to keep the beach clean. The aim is to promote agro tourism and help organise the beach festival that has been held for two years now,says Prakash Khopkar,Deputy CEO of Raigad district. This year’s beach festival in May was a big draw as ‘khanavals’ (families catering food for tourists) set up stalls on the beach.

Vijay Patwardhan,or Lallabhai as he is called,heads the loose grouping of khanavals. The village has some 250 families who operate as khanavals and tourists have to place their orders at least an hour in advance for home cooked meals,he says. Nilesh Tondlekar,whose family has been in the fishing business for several years,says he

set up a khanaval to supplement his income.

“Most of our tourists come from Pune,Nashik,Aurangabad and other parts of Maharashtra,” says Patwardhan. “What we offer is reasonably priced food at the khanavals. Many of these khanavals even let out rooms at very cheap rates,” some for Rs 300-400 a day.

While the government is promoting the Konkan beaches of Diveagar,Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar,villagers say Sunil Tatkare,Maharashtra’s finance minister and the district guardian minister,takes keen interest in the development of these regions. Tatkare is an NCP MLA from Raigad constituency and has approved funds for better roads to the beachside villages.

Earlier,the state government earmarked Rs 9.5 crore for the development of Diveagar and another Rs 12 crore for Shrivardhan beach. The beach has a new road that runs parallel to it and various incentives,like discounted rates for stay and food for senior citizens,are being chalked out to encourage tourism.

Aniket Tatkare,coordinator of the Diveagar beach festival and son of Sunil Tatkare says,“Why do we need to go to Goa or Kerala when there are fascinating beaches along the Konkan coastline?”

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