Tourism boat operators in Andhra seek exemption from user charges
Vijayawada: Private tour boat operators have appealed to the state government to waive the user charges of Rs 100 per head as their operations on River Godavari to the tourism destination of Papikondalu are hit due to floods and safety issues.
More than 30 boats are being operated on the river to Papikondalu from Gandi Pochamma and Pochavaram, depending upon patronage from tourists.
The operators say the user charge was recently doubled by the AP Tourism Development Corporation. The operation has become so uncertain even during the peak festive season due to floods in the river and safety issues. The boats charge about Rs 1,000 per head.
They say the cost of diesel as also the food being supplied to the tourists on board has gone up. “We have to pay wages to the staff irrespective of whether the boats are operated or not, on a monthly basis.”
The operators also complain about lack of quality amenities at the ghats, like proper accommodation, drinking water, washrooms etc for tourists. Many boat operators are tribals or the Polavaram project-affected people with weak financial clout, they stressed.
They have urged the state government to exempt them from paying the user charges at least for two years during which time they hope to recover from the present financial crisis.
Meanwhile, the boat operators have been served notices by the forest authorities to ensure they pay another user charge of Rs 2 per head as the boats cross the eco-sensitive zone. “This is because tourists dump waste despite directions not to do so,” it was explained.
A boat operator said, “We have spent nearly Rs 5 lakh on each boat for its overhaul to comply with safety norms. There was a long break in the boat operations and we are facing the problem of low occupancy.”
The operators also want the state government to promote boating operations in Godavari river by linking pilgrim centres like Annavaram, Dwaraka Tirumala etc and giving wide publicity to such efforts.
A good number of tourists from Hyderabad and other places in Telangana arrive in the temple town of Badrachalam and set sail on Godavari from Pochavaram to Papikondalu and go back, they say.
> Boat operators submit representations to local MLAs from Polavaram and Rampachodavaram and to the minister of tourism and culture, R.K. Roja, seeking waiver of the user charges.
> Nearly 25,000 tickets have been issued from Pochavaram to Papikondalu and about 17,000 tickets from Gandi Pochamma to Papikondalu in 2021-22
> Dwindling boat occupancy is a cause of concern hundreds of stakeholders are involved in the boating operations
> Boats charge nearly Rs 1,000 per head
> The boat operators are contemplating the filing of a case to get relief from user charges