Kottayam, May 11 : Houseboat owners in Kumarakom, the tourist spot here, requested the government for an extension of time period for dry docking survey and Pollution Control Board (PCB) Certificates by three years. The owners have also requested for one year extended period to renew their yearly license. The backwater tourism industry was going through tough times after the Nipah virus outbreak and the back to back floods.
But the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has made things even worse. The owners will have to spend lakhs of rupees to do maintenance work on the boats that had been lying idle for a long time and asked for government intervention to help struggling boat owners. An amount of Rs 5000 is needed for renewing the license but a hefty sum will have to be paid for the dry docking survey. Kumarakom Houseboat Owners Society former Secretary Shanej Indraprastham demanded that interest-free moratorium should be allowed for bank loans based on the existing license.
Dry docking survey would require an amount between Rs seven to Rs 10 lakh depending on the number of rooms in the boat. It is estimated that house boating sector will remain closed even when other sectors open up post lockdown. The owners were also demanding Rs five lakh as interest-free loan through service sector banks in order to complete the maintenance work of these houseboats. There are 1200 houseboats and 700 shikara boats in Vembanad lake as part of backwater tourism. Houseboats suffer a loss of Rs 10,000 per day while shikara boats incur a loss of Rs 1500 daily. As per this estimate, the houseboat sector suffers from a loss of Rs two crore daily. Thousands of people associated with the houseboat sector work have lost their livelihood. (UNI)