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River draw for tourists

The state government is taking the river route to attract tourists.

The tourism department is set to develop the riverfront, start cruises to the Sunderbans, Murshidabad and various heritage and religious destinations and provide facilities for adventure sports on the Hooghly.

“Most of the projects will be implemented in the public-private partnership mode,” said an official of the department.

The Rs 130-crore Ganga River Cruise Project is the most ambitious of the plans.

“We expect to complete the tender process of the river cruise project by the end of the month,” state tourism minister Manab Mukherjee said at Tourism East 2009, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, on Friday.

According to tourism department officials, three Indian cruise companies have tied up with multinationals and submitted bids. The letter of intent will be issued by the last week of February.

“Three big and a number of small vessels will be operated under the scheme,” said an official. Four tourist department vessels will be overhauled and made air-conditioned for the purpose.

The state government will spend Rs 20 crore to develop the riverfront. A dozen ghats have been identified for infrastructure boost, said T.N. Rao, the managing director of West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation.

Toilets and waiting rooms will be constructed on the riverfront under the plan.

Also on the cards is a river cruise from Calcutta to Varanasi. Transindus, a London-based company, plans to start the tour.

“The cruise ship is being built by an Indian company,” said a spokesperson for Transindus from London.

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