State govt allows commercial operations at Jog Falls

State govt allows commercial operations at Jog Falls

The State government has allowed commercial development at the famous Jog Falls in Shimoga district as part of a project to create artificial waterfalls there throughout the year.

To make the project feasible, the Tourism Department will allow a company or a consortium to take up the artifical falls project and provide facilities to tourists, including setting up hotels and restaurants. It has recently called a global tender, inviting expressions of interest from private companies to take up the project on a Public Private Partnership basis.

The government wants to prevent a repeat of 2006, when eight companies, including Siemens and Gammon India, backed out of a tender after finding that the project’s implementation was not financially viable. After the project failed to take off, the then government had refused to allow commercial operations at Jog Falls as it met with opposition and wanted promoters to recover the cost through entry fees collected from tourists.

Normally, the Jog Falls dry up after the rainy season (between July and October).
According to a report from Gerame Consultants, around 200 cusecs of water per second is required to create artificial falls throughout the year. This can be done using reversible pumping technology at an estimated cost of Rs 150 crore.

“If implemented, it will be the tallest artificial waterfall in the world. It will make Jog Falls a major tourist destination. It is not true that the project will affect KPCL’s electricity generation. Through reversible pumping technology, pumped water can also be utilised for power generation,” H R Viswanath of Gerame Consultants explained.

Viswanath said companies that had come forward to take up the project in 2006 wanted the government to give an undertaking on their cost recovery, fearing that a hike in entry fees at the falls would trigger protests and bring them losses. Therefore, the plan now is to allow commercial development as part of the project, he added.

Tourism Minister R V Deshpande justified the decision to allow commercial operations and said it is not proper to expect private companies to do charity work all the time. Pointing out that tourism can only develop with the active participation of the private sector, he said, “Commercial development is the obvious move.”

Deshpande also said the Tourism Department is yet to work out a financial model for the project, which will be done on the basis of proposals from companies that express interest.

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