12 Lakshadweep islands to open up for tourists

Thinking of white sands, clear lagoons, coral reefs and five star luxury resorts? If Maldives comes to mind, think again. Your next tropical island holiday could be closer home than you had imagined.

Lakshadweep, the tropical archipelago off India’s west coast, is readying to welcome more tourists to its pristine shores. To make this possible, the island administration will now open up 12 islands, as yet off limits, for tourists. The move is being implemented as part of the Centre’s initiative for holistic development of islands and will give a leg up to niche tourism in Lakshadweep.

The islands that have been taken up for development include Minicoy, Bangaram, Suheli, Cherium, Tinnakara, Kalpeni, Kadmat, Agatti, Chetlat and Bitra. Director of tourism in Lakshadweep Balram Meena told a daily, “Since Lakshadweep is an ecologically sensitive area, great care has been taken in planning the measures. Lakshadweep has immense potential for growth, but we have observed that over the years, tourist influx has somewhat stagnated. Current effort is not only to ramp up tourism, but to also open up the island cluster to public, private and public-private partnership mode of investments to create more employment for Lakshadweep islanders.”

In a bid to ease traffic, the tourism ministry, Niti Aayog and the home ministry have said the Restricted Area Permit regime will be relaxed for tourism promotion in Lakshadweep. A public-private partnership package has been developed, as part of which the island administration has begun inviting ecofriendly resorts and scuba diving centres.
To ensure that no ecological damage comes to the islands, the administration, as part of the Island Management Plan, has finalised suitability reports for each island, and also specified carrying capacity in each case. “Every island will have its unique features, from fishing to agriculture and development of medicinal plants-…we want to showcase Lakshadweep as a jewel in India’s crown,” Meena said.

Three public-private partnership projects in Suheli, Minicoy and Kadmat are ready to be launched. The government said an investment of over Rs 300 crore is expected from the private sector after these projects are implemented. “Preference will be given to local people for employment,” an island official said.

Services the government said it was looking to improve over the months include modern jetties, air, road and web connectivity, good quality drinking water and ensuring regular power supply. Tuna fishing, regarded as heavily underdeveloped in Lakshadweep, will be promoted as part of measures to improve livelihoods in Lakshadweep.

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