Varanasi-Dibrugarh river cruise on cards
Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal said on Monday that the stage was set for the launch of the world’s longest river cruise from Varanasi (UP) to Dibrugarh (Assam) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 13, a 3200-km voyage, he said, will not only help showcase the country’s beauty and culture but also unlock the country’s river tourism potential.
The Union minister of ports, shipping & waterways and Ayush said here that 32 tourists from Switzerland will be part of the 51-day journey on the MV Ganga Vilas that will cruise through 27 river systems across five states (UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam) with stoppages at leading tourist destinations before its expected culmination in Dibrugarh on March 1 via Bangladesh.
A bullish Sonowal, while hailing the vision of Modi of “discovering” the country through such cruises, said, “The Ganga Vilas cruise will open up new vistas for tourism in the country. Our rich heritage will get global exposure as foreign tourists will be able to experience the beautiful, spiritual, cultural side of the country besides its rich biodiversity. From Kashi to Sarnath, from Majuli to Mayong, from Sunderbans to Kaziranga, this cruise packs an experience of a lifetime.”
He also announced that for the convenience of cruise operators, the Prime Minister would also lay the foundation of a ship repairing centre in Guwahati along with a maritime skill development centre for the northeast to churn out the specialised manpower.
The repair facility at the Pandu Terminal here will save time and money as it will cater to the needs of Assam, the army and private operators, he said.
The 51-day MV Ganga Vilas cruise, curated to bring out the “best” the country has to offer to the world, will visit 50 tourist spots including world heritage sites, national parks, river ghats, and major cities such as Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Calcutta in West Bengal, Dhaka (in neighbouring Bangladesh) and Guwahati in Assam.
As the cruise will spend more than ten days in Assam, the foreign tourists will also be able to explore and experience Assam, hoping the cruise’s multiplier impact on the state’s economy will be manifold.
The cruise stopovers in Assam include Dhubri, Goalpara (Jogighopa), Guwahati (Pandu), Pobitora, Tezpur, Silghat, Nemati Ghat before anchoring at Dibrugarh (Bogibeel).
“I believe this wonderful initiative, under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi ji, is the beginning of a new era in river cruise tourism in India and strengthening our government’s commitment to enable Act East, both through policy and practice,” the former Assam chief minister said.
According to official sources, the longest cruises till now were not more than “2500- 2700km long in Europe”. The three-decker Ganga Vilas is 62 meters in length, 12 meters in width.
It has 18 suites and has the capacity to host 36 tourists who will be charged 300 dollars a day, Sonowal said, adding the cruise has been supported by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) under the ministry of Shipping, Ports and Waterways (MoPSW).