Tourists disappointed; hub of tourism wears a deserted look
Kushalnagar: With no river rafting and with the famed Elephant Camp closed, Dubare, the main tourist attraction in Kodagu, is a deserted area now. Thousands of tourists mainly crowd Dubare due to the elephant camp and adventure rafting.
Rafting had resumed 10 days back after fresh relaxations were announced but again it has been closed now as the Government has not permitted water sports and related adventure activities.
As far as the Dubare Elephant Camp is concerned, it is closed as River Cauvery is in full spate due to bountiful rains. Also, it is an arduous task for the Forest Department to take the tourists to the camp crossing the river and maintaining social distancing in the two boats they have.
The river rafting industry that thrives on the banks of Cauvery at Dubare is struggling to survive these days. For the last three years, the stakeholders were not able to operate the rafts in full strength first due to permit issues as the District Administration had denied permission in early 2018 due to allegations of irregularities and the death of a tourist. Later, the permits and fitness certificates were handed over to 64 boats owned by 32 operators with each licence permitting operation of two boats. But before the industry could pick up, COVID struck in 2020 and the second wave came in 2021.
Oral permission to open
After the tourist spots were opened by the State Government on July 5 this year, office-bearers of the Dubare Rafting Association approached Kodagu DC Charulata Somal, who is also the Chairperson of River Rafting Management and Monitoring Committee, to permit them to operate the rafts.
As the Govt. guidelines did not mention anything about water sports, the DC gave oral permission for the licenced operators to function as per COVID guidelines. There was a huge demand for rafting soon after it was opened. But the fresh Government order issued on July 24 came as a rude shock to the Association as the order banned water sports and adventure activities.
“There is no business and we are struggling with no sort of aid coming from the Government. We have to pay our employees and also maintain the boats sans business. This year, we operated for only 10 days,” said C.L. Vishwa, President of the Association.
Yesterday, the Association met the Kodagu Tourism CEO Ishwar Kumar Khandu, who is also the Assistant Commissioner and appealed to permit the rafting operation as operators, employees and over 64 guides are in deep distress. The officer assured them that the restrictions would be eased in the coming days.
Rafting Guides Association President Manish told Star of Mysore that there is uncertainty in the industry and the Government’s frequent flip-flops have cost them dear. “The 64 guides have switched to daily wages as they can neither take up new jobs as the employers are reluctant to hire their services due to uncertainty nor return to rafting as the activity is banned. So they have switched to daily wages,” he said.
Though the Dubare Elephant Camp opened for tourists on July 5, it has been closed now as the water level is high and it is turbulent. The Forest Department owns only two boats that can carry 20 persons each in one trip. But if social distance has to be maintained, each boat can carry only 10 tourists. “If tourists are allowed to come here and if there are more than 2,000 tourists, chaos and fights will break out for a boat ride. We cannot risk this and as such, we have closed the Camp,” a forest official told SOM.
Moreover, the Department is doing certain maintenance works at the Camp and the date of re-opening is yet to be decided.