No check on country boats in scenic Papikondalu

Papikondalu, where the river Godavari meanders between two hills offering an enchanting view of hundreds of endangered species all along the journey, has long been a tourist paradise.

However, after the boat capsize in the River Krishna near Pavitra Sangamam in Vijayawada on Sunday, there is a question mark over the safety of tourists visiting the place. Failure of administration in checking country boat operations as well as overloading in private boats have emerged as major areas of concern.

Moreover, an action plan drafted by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) to bring boat operations under one umbrella is yet to materialise even after a crucial meeting with boat operators, irrigation, APTDC, revenue and police officials by the then Principal Secretary of APTDC.

The Papikondalu Boat and Launch Operators Association operates 26 boats and eight launches daily from Rajamahendravaram to Papikondalu via the Perantallaplli and Pochamma Gandi points. There are also two APTDC vessels, but usually only one of them is operational. About 3,000 travel on these boats. The starting point is Angaluru and Polavaram villages.

All the operators are members of the Launch Operators’ Association and they renew their licences by paying the annual fee to Divisional Engineer, Head Works of Irrigation Department at Dowleswaram. They also take fitness certificates from the boat superintendent.

“We renew the licence only after our junior engineer certifies the fitness of the vessel concerned. We have information about 10 other boats which are being operated unofficially,” said N. Krishna Rao, Executive Engineer, Irrigation Department.

On several occasions,passengers were stranded while returning from Papikondalu when engines of the boats failed. “We conduct regular inspections and give fitness certificates. However, I do admit that there have been instances of boats developing a snag and on such occasions we acted decisively by cancelling the licences of the operators,” said Mr. Krishna Rao.

Revenue and police personnel hold the Irrigation Department responsible for the situation. “It is the responsibility of operators to provide life jackets, walkie-talkies as the area is out of mobile network coverage,” said Rajamahendravaram urban SP B. Rajakumari.

The boat operators collect ₹750 per head from Rajamahendravaram and take more passengers than the boat could hold, from Godavari river bund to the Purushothapatnam boat point, which is about 35 km. On Saturday and Sundays, the fare goes up to ₹1,200 per head. Most of the passengers complain about non-availability of life jackets even in APTDC boats.

Major incident

In 2007, four young advocates drowned when the country boat in which they were travelling capsized. Six others were rescued. In 2011, one engineer of the SPDCL from Guntur died when a mini-country boat capsized. In another incident in 2014, cooking gas leaked in a vessel carrying 136 passengers, but no there was no damage.

“No major incident has taken place in the Godavari in the last last three decades in boats which have a capacity of 60 to 250 passengers. Country boats which do not have any licence carry 15 to 40 tourists at a time,”said Prasanna Kumar, Boat Superintendent, Irrigation Department. He said the Fisheries Department imparts training and gives certificates to interested fishermen and the Irrigation Department gives Sarangi Certificate, which has to be renewed once in two years.

Let's block ads! (Why?)