In the case of Madhya Pradesh, certainly, the concept of ‘tourism first’ as a principle for driving economic growth in the hinterland is being positioned, repeatedly, by none other than the Chief Minister himself. Signalling a stronger push towards developing requisite infrastructure to better tap water tourism in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minster Shivraj Singh Chouhan shared that more islands in the backwaters of the Narmada river were being developed, which would be together called Madhya Dweep, creating a new and formidable asset for the state’s tourism and a means of generating employment in the region. Giving an insight into plans for developing the proposed Madhya Dweep, he shared that the government was keen on putting in place commensurate infrastructure and private players were being given an opportunity to operate various activities, hotels and services.
He was inaugurating a two-and-a-half-month-long water carnival, Jal Mahotsav, recently, which is slated to continue till January 2 at Hanuwantiya Island in the backwaters of Indira Sagar Dam in Khandwa district of the state.
The CM drew a parallel between waters of Kerala and Narmada, noting that in Kerala, houseboats were running in dirty waters. “Still, tourists stay there for days,” he said. “But in Madhya Pradesh, water of the Narmada river is clean and pure and with houseboats on them, tourists will flock here,” Chouhan reasoned.
Speaking at the occasion, he reminisced how once tourism was not a key part of the administrative focus and the government’s engagements revolved primarily around providing basic necessities. “When I became the chief minister, the initial focus was on water, electricity and roads. Increasing agriculture productivity was another major area of focus,” the chief minister said. “But later, during a visit to Sentosa in Singapore the idea of developing similar tourist places in Madhya Pradesh occurred. After this, Indira Sagar dam was identified for the purpose. It took us eight years to develop Hanuwantiya Island,” added the CM. “In the next five years, this region will be on the top in the country in terms of tourism, Chouhan said.
The ongoing Jal Mahotsav is home to several adventure activities including hot air ballooning, parasailing, paramotors, water skiing and jet skiing. There are over 100 luxury tents on the banks of the river proving accommodation to visitors. Tourists can also ride in houseboats and cruise boats in the backwaters of the Narmada river.
The state has been serious in its approach towards diversifying its tourism assets to boost its profile in the domestic and international markets. Madhya Pradesh already attracts robust spiritual and religious travellers and is home to some of the finest wildlife reserves and animal sanctuaries in the country. With focus now on water tourism, Madhya Pradesh is well on its way to cultivating yet another peg of tourism, likely to give the state handsome results in the months to come.