Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government’s tourism department Thursday signed an MoU with Kerala Shipping & Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) to acquire technical support in planning and developing diverse water tourism and recreation products. Besides having Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon Chilika lake, the State has a 482 km coastline, eight major reservoirs besides several other pristine water bodies where surveys have ascertained the feasibility of setting up sustainable water sports and recreationand tourism products such as house boats.

In July last year, the department of tourism had organised FAM (familiarisation) trips forhouse boat and water sports operators and investors from across the country to prominent destinations such as Chilika and Tampara lakes, Bhirarkanika, Gopalpur sea beach. Since then, the State has received several single window proposals in the segment, and five water sports projects have been operationalised since – at Tampara, Gopalpur, Barkul,Chandrabhaga and Naraj (Cuttack). The department has also floated tenders for the operation and management of floating restaurants at select locations in Chilika Lake.

“Odisha has already established its brand identity as India’s best kept secret. To sustain the curiosity and pull-factor among tourists, we must keep innovating to refine the quality of experiences. Under the 5T performance framework driven by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, the principles of teamwork and technology are the key drivers behind this agenda for transforming our tourism landscape. Odisha has always accorded priority to collaboration over competition, and our partnering with Kerala is a watershed”, said Odisha tourism minister Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi.

“Besides water sports, we have decided to introduce houseboats in Chilika Lake, Bhitarkanika backwaters and Hirakud Reservoir, which will offer the best of the State’s ecotourism potential harmonised with adventure, leisure and experiences in local culturesand hospitality. Kerala having achieved a position of leadership particularly in this segmentwas an obvious potential partner in our quest, and with this understanding, we havefurthered Odisha’s agenda in cooperative federalism”, said tourism secretary Vishal Dev

KSINC MD Prashant Nair who signed the MoU on behalf of KSINC expressed this arrangement would help Odisha tourism to plan and develop water based tourism in the State in a structured and sustainable manner. The State tourism department has also achieved some progress in its agenda to operationalise river cruises along stretches of National Waterways in the State and other viable stretches. Inland Waterways Authority of India and the Odisha’s IWT department are in the process of conducting detailed feasibility studies for the same.

Following the signing of the MoU, KSINC’s technical team is scheduled to conduct an extensive field trip, and submit preliminary technical reports to the Odisha government.