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Whale shark tourism to drop anchor at Veraval coast soon

A new form of adventure — whale shark tourism — is all set to hit the Veraval coast shortly.

Written by Sibtehusainbukhari | Junagarh |
November 1, 2008 1:20:24 am

NGOs have joined hands with the private sector to make the Rs 300-cr project a success

A new form of adventure — whale shark tourism — is all set to hit the Veraval coast shortly . The private sector and NGOs have already initiated a plan for whale shark tourism without waiting for the government’s nod. The infrastructure cost for the project has been pegged at Rs 300 crore.

Abdul Wadood Banatwala, a Veraval-based hotelier and member of the ‘Earth Matters Foundation’ (EMF), said, “The Veraval coast has enough potential for whale shark tourism. For this, the state government, the Union government, NGOs, local bodies and even the fishermen community will have to pitch in their support.”

According to Banatwala, Earth Matters Foundation and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands-based NGO, Green Life Society have already worked out a plan titled ‘Whale shark tourism in Veraval—Strategic Plan 2009’. But before going ahead with this, a lot of infrastructural facilities are required at Veraval, including a state-of-the-art hospital, a hotel, a language teaching school, and professional divers among others, he said.

“Once it gets started, tourists from all over the world will visit Veraval. For that, world-class facilities are extremely important to render the project successful. This will put Veraval on the world tourism map,” Banatwala said.

He added: “It is purely adventure tourism: quite expensive, risky and above all, whale shark locations are never fixed in the sea. It will cost 15 to 20 thousand rupees per day per head.”

In 1997-98, EMF’s Mike Pandey along with his team, including Banatwala, had made a film on the whale shark titled Shores of Silence. The film had created remarkable awareness. It had won numerous awards, including three Green Oscars. In 2008, Banatwala was honoured with the ‘Eco Warrior Award’ by Vice-President Abdul Hamid Ansari.

Whale Shark facts

It is a Schedule-I animal as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It is the world’s largest fish. Whale sharks grow to a length of 60 feet or more and weigh up to 34 tonnes (in comparison, a big elephant weighs up to six tonnes). Globally, whale sharks inhabit tropical and warm waters. They migrate to areas rich in food. They tend to concentrate at certain places at the same time every year. However, there is no estimate of their precise population.

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