Ban on shikara, small boats lifted in Alappuzha, operators not enthused

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The rainy season has commenced and now the arrival of tourists would be minimal. Photo: iStock/Prasanthdas D S

Alappuzha: The District Collector, Alappuzha, has lifted the ban imposed on the services of shikara and small boats. The ban was imposed on May 29, after Alappuzha witnessed incessant rains for over two days and water levels rose to alarming levels. The continuous rain and the ban that followed came as a major setback for the operators. The fag end period of the summer vacation is a favoured time among domestic tourists to go for outings and the shikara and other small boat operators look forward to this as a time to earn decent profits ahead of the rainy season. ''The situation was so bad that many people had to be sent away due to the inability to conduct services. Most of them won't return as they would see it as a rejection and feel bad about it. These were potential return customers,'' says Vineeth, Shikara driver and secretary of Boat and Shikara Drivers Association.

Other operators said they faced losses in the form of cancelled bookings. Although pre-booking is comparatively less for shikara rides compared to houseboats, it still makes up for a good chunk of the business. ''We had to cancel many bookings due to the ban and the money had to be refunded. This was an unexpected loss which hit us hard,'' said staff at the Shikara booking centre. Though the ban has been lifted, this has not cheered the operators much. The rainy season has commenced and now the arrival of tourists would be minimal. ''Now, we have to wait till Onam for the sector to become lively again. Only then would the losses incurred due to the rains and the ban be recovered,'' says Vineeth. More than 150 families depend on the operation of Shikara services for their livelihood in Alappuzha.