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Damn! Chandil losing charm

Jamshedpur, Jan. 14: From 90,000 to 1 lakh tourists every month in 2010 to a mere 40,000 in 2011-12, the sharp drop in numbers makes a telling statement for the picturesque Chandil Dam, around 26km from Jamshedpur.

Once a sought-after spot for visitors from Odisha, Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, and even the UK and USA, especially between November and January, the dam has lost a bulk of its fans thanks to poor upkeep and non-existent infrastructure.

Left to nature, Chandil Dam, nestling on Subernarekha banks with Dalma’s hilly forest as backdrop, could have launched a million tourist dreams. But visitors are growing intolerant of bad approach roads, lack of streetlights, restaurants, toilets and washrooms.

Kumar Sarvottam, an LIC officer in Mumbai who visited the spot with his Jamshedpur-based relative, pointed out this dichotomy. “I am thrilled with scenic beauty and boats, but facilities leave me cold. Forget a nice eatery, this area lacks even a toilet. The approach road gave me a backache.”

It spells bad news for Chandil residents — especially boatmen — for whom tourism is the only livelihood worth mentioning. Visthapith Mukti Vahini (VMV), an organisation of dam-displaced people from 116 villages, operates the boating facility comprising a speedboat, two shikaras and four paddleboats, charging Rs 50 per head for a ride.

The VMV earns in the range of Rs 5-6 lakh per year, but pay around Rs 3 lakh as tax to water resource department, in-charge Kishore Gope rued. He and others blamed tourism and water resource departments for not doing enough.

“The state government has stabbed us in our back,” cries VMV president Narayan Gope (52) of Gangudih village. “The water resource department that controls irrigation work promised to provide facilities to enable us (displaced villagers) earn our living through tourism, but did nothing. The tourism department was happy with verbal assurance.”

Strangely, Chandil falls under the parliamentary constituency of Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay, who holds the tourism portfolio at the Centre.

VMV official Kishore Gope, in charge of the boating facility, said they met had Sahay. “He said the Centre has released funds and issued a directive to the state tourism department. But when we (VMV members) met state tourism minister Vimla Pradhan, she denied receiving it,” he said.

Pradhan, during the inauguration of a state bungalow in Bokaro on Friday, waxed eloquent on the government plans to set up tourist resorts after every 50km, and said chief minister Arjun Munda had promised all aid to this sector.

Chandil also gets its share of verbal largesse. “We are aware of the area’s tourism potential and will upgrade facilities,” state tourism director Siddharth Tripathy said. Chandil Dam superintendent engineer Vinod Kumar Mahuri cited funds crunch as the reason why their plans to construct the road and install streetlights were stalled, but hastily added that water resource department might sanction funds “any day”.

“We hope to start repair work by this fiscal,” he assured.

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