But its geography and regional economy are about to experience a major shake-up that will, in a manner of speaking, endow a part of it with the look and feel of Antarctica. No, this is not a VFX-packed, apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster.
The state government has approved a Rs-509 crore project to build India's first oceanarium here, or the Sea World. It will be the second major theme park in the state after Essel World, the ninth in the country, and will catapult Tondawali to the recreation map of the country.
The approval for the aquatic fantasyland comes after a recent meeting chaired by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and attended by Industries Minister Narayan Rane and Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
Accepted after a feasibility study prepared by Centre-promoted Science and Technology Park in the University of Pune, the park is expected to be thrown open to public in three years, and would include a mock Antarctica among several other attractions (see box below).
A simulated sea will be created along with that of a real lake. And finally, people will be able to enjoy a mock Antarctica. According to Jagdish Patil, managing director of Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, which will execute the project's completion, "The site at Malvan is ideal for Sea World as it has 13 km of virgin beaches.
The proposed airport at Chipi, to come up by 2015, is just 12 km away and can be reached within 20 minutes. Apart from the required land of 250 acres, some 1,000-acre plain plateau land is available to develop the project. Also, it requires no displacement of localities."
Sea World, which is slated to begin construction in September next year, will include theme-based restaurants where visitors can enjoy a view of the aquatic life over a meal. It will also house a 3D dome and theatre and an underwater studio for film shooting
The state, which is celebrating year 2011 as Tourism Year conceived of the project to promote marine conservation, biodiversity and research; the project will give tourism a fillip, boost regional economy, and provide visitors with a world-class experience in the form of a recreation destination.
13 lakh tourists
According to officials, the project will be taken up on a Private Public Partnership (PPP) model, and the state has approved the project with a willingness to provide Rs 120 crore as the viability gap funding.
The project will attract 13 lakh visitors in the first year itself, and the figure will cross 43 lakh by the tenth year, the tourism department claims. Other than that, it will also try to woo the 28 lakh holidaymakers to Goa, only around 100 km from the site.
Commenting on the breadth of recreation facilities, Patil said, "Sea World is not just a day-long affair. It may require three days to enjoy the breadth of recreation facilities it offers. We are sending the project for in-principle approval to the Centre. Once completed, it will become one of the top 10 Sea World projects in the world."
The site at Tondawali in Malvan was preferred over Mumbai after a SWOT analysis by the expert team from Science and Technology Park. In their report, they say that Mumbai doesn't have the land pool or the beaches with additional land to develop the spectrum of activities the park offers.
According to sources, Kashid in Raigad and Bhandarpule in Ratnagiri were rejected as viable sites due to several problems, such as sea water not being conducive, high land cost, agricultural land, barrier of villages and existing resorts, less diversity of attractions in its periphery, and so on.
Sea World will include a dolphin stadium, water park, dome and 3D theatre, aquarium, amphitheatre, underwater studio, rescue centre, several themed restaurants and amusement arcades, among other things.
The initial daily water demand (in litres) for Sea World
Rs 302 crore
Revenue that Sea World is expected to generate by its 10th year
The construction of Sea World begins
The deadline for finishing the proposed Sea World
Number of jobs that will be generated for people in coastal areas
Number of visitors the project is expected to attract in its first year
Amusement park entrance fee for adults (Rs 250 for children)
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