Dharamshala, Sep 15: The plan of the Tourism Department to start a cruise ship in the Pong Dam has hit a bottleneck. Sources said the BBMB had denied the permission to the department to ply cruise ship within 1.5 km from the Pong Dam head.Chairman of the BBMB DK Sharma said the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had maintained that no activity could be allowed in the dam waters within 1.5 km of the dam head.
He said the decision was conveyed to three-member committee, including the Chief Engineer, Talwara, BBMB, and the department authorities. The BBMB had no objection in the Pong Dam lake beyond 1.5 km from the dam head.
Interestingly, without taking prior clearance from the BBMB and security agencies, the department has spent about Rs 4 crore on developing infrastructure in Dhameta, a place located about 400 metres from the dam structure. The money has been spent from the loans raised from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The department has spent about Rs 8 lakh on developing the jetty for cruise, Rs 75 lakh on open air cafe, Rs 5 lakh on landscaping, Rs 80 lakh on parking toilets, Rs 1.32 crore on about nine luxury tents and rest on other infrastructure such as tourist reception centre.
The expenditure was done with an idea that tourists would stay at Dhameta and would be taken to the Pong Dam lake in a cruise. Now that idea of running the cruise has been shelved. District Tourism and Development Officer Sunayana Sharma admitted that the cruise could not be run from Dhameta due to guidelines of the IB.
She said the department would now look for an alternative site beyond 1.5 km from the dam head. She said the other properties developed at Dhameta have been handed over to the HP Tourism Development Corporation for operations and the cafe is running in profit while booking for tents and two suites developed there is likely to pick up in winters.
Sources here said the water level in the lake varied a lot. In monsoon, the water level was optimum while in winters, when the water was released for irrigation, the level went down and at place the lake was reduced to stream. The department would not get the stable minimum water level to run cruise beyond 1.5 km from the dam head.
The decision of the department to develop infrastructure at Dhameta had drawn criticism from the people living along the lake. Raghav, a resident of Nandpur village, who has developed a resort near the Pong Dam lake, says that the department had made an attempt to develop tourism in Dhameta.
A cafe was developed there and it never became functional. The ramshackle building of the cafe has now been handed over to the Sports Department to be used as temporary hostel. When one experiment to develop tourism at Dhameta had failed, the department should have looked for places like Nagrota Surian and Guler for promotion of tourism rather than wasting money at Dhameta, he said.
Source Tribune India