The Maldives has emerged as one of the most sought after country as tourists from across the world flock to its islands and marvel in its sheer beauty. However, there is a feeling that Maldives’s infrastructure has reached a saturation point and the Modi government has sensed an opportunity and has pledged investments to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore to its Union Territories of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands with the government all set to develop Maldives style water villas in the lagoons of Lakshadweep and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
The Niti Aayog is looking to develop high-value tourist destinations and hence, along with the villas, infrastructure would be developed, including the building of new airports, the introduction of seaplanes to these destinations and strengthening helicopter services as well as floating jetties to ensure smooth accessibility.
The Niti Aayog has proposed building 125 rooms in water villas to be constructed on Minicoy Island, Suheli Island and Kadmat Island of Lakshadweep. It plans to construct 460 rooms inland villas on Long Island, Aves Island, Smith Island and Shaheed Dweep Island in Andaman & Nicobar.
In the quest for developing the Union Territories, the Niti Aayog hasn’t forgotten to take the necessary precautions so that the ecology doesn’t get affected and hence, it has obtained all the environment permits and will start awarding contracts before the end of the year and the construction is expected to begin in the current financial year itself. The administration, as part of the Island Management Plan, has finalised suitability reports for each Island and also specified carrying capacity in each case.
Lakshadweep is an archipelago of twelve atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks, with a total of about thirty-nine islands and islets. The reefs are also atolls, although mostly submerged, with only small unvegetated sand cays above the high-water mark. It has ten inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited islands, attached islets, four newly formed islets and five submerged reefs. It has over 600 species of marine fishes, 78 species of corals, 82 species of seaweed, 52 species of crabs, 2 species of lobsters, 48 species of gastropods, 12 species of bivalves, 101 species of birds. it is one of the four coral reef regions in India.
The Central government started opening up Lakshadweep in 2016 as it opened 12 islands for the tourists which were till then off-limits with the islands of Minicoy, Suheli, Cherium, Tinnakara, Kalpeni, Kadmat, Agatti, Chetlat and Bitra being taken up for development. In a significant development, a public-private partnership package has been developed, as part of which the island administration has begun inviting eco-friendly resorts and subs diving centres. The government is expecting investments to the tune of Rs 300 crores after completion of the projects.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprises of 572 islands of which 37 are inhabited and are a group of islands at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. The territory is about 150 km north of Aceh in Indonesia and separated from Thailand and Myanmar by the Andaman Sea. It comprises two island groups, the Andaman Islands (partly) and the Nicobar Islands, separated by the 150 km wide Ten Degree Channel.
The Centre has planned a massive makeover for the Union Territory as it has decided to improve infrastructure and connectivity in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Five islands here have been identified for the HDI project and another 12 islands will be added later. Improvement of connectivity has been given the top priority, to promote tourism. Importantly, the Islands will get two new airports at Diglipur and Minicoy with both slated to be fully functional by the end of the year. Work has also commenced for the laying of a submarine Optical Fibre Cable between Chennai and Port Blair and eight other islands. The project is likely to be completed by June of 2020, after which unlimited bandwidth shall be available here.
The Modi government must be commended for its focus to develop Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which have tremendous potential for tourism. The untapped Union Territories have the potential to reinvigorate the Indian tourism sector and it seems there are interesting times ahead for the Union Territories.