August 15, 2011

Windmills of distress in Rajasthan’s tourism industry

By Anil Sharma, IANS, 15 August 2011

Jaisalmer : Hundreds of windmills dotting Rajasthan’s sandy dunes to harness power are having an adverse effect – they are hitting the state’s booming tourism industry.

Around 1,600 windmills have sprung up in Jaisalmer district, where forts, royal havelis and camel safaris have been popular with tourists. The tourism industry says these windmills have led to the shutting down of several camel safari routes.

“Camel safari in the dunes is the most popular tourist activity here and many safari routes have been closed down due to the windmills,” Virendra Singh, owner of camping site Resort Rawla, told IANS.

Many globally popular places and heritage sites in this desert district have no tourists any more, Virendra said.

Villages like Josira, Hansawa, Kotari, Pithala, Gorara, Temarai Rai, Bhoo-Bhopa, Pithorai, Polji Ki Deri and Keetam which were once very popular among tourists for camel safari are today completely devoid of tourists. The safari routes passing through these places have been closed down, he said.

“Only a few official routes are open for camel safari and for desert camping in Jaisalmer like Damodara, Kanoi, Salkha, Keshuo ki basti, Lakhamano ki basti, Khabha and Manpia, among a few others,” Virendra added.

Tourism industry representatives said the issue of land allotment for windmills was raised at a meeting of district administration officials July 15.

The district collector ordered the assistant director of Tourist Reception Centre, run by the government, to submit a detailed report in this regard.

The report submitted July 25 recommended that the windmills should be at least 10 km away from all the routes including Jaisalmer – Damodra – Kanoi – Salakha – Siyalon Ki Basti – Sam – Khabha – Kuldhara – Manpiya.

However, nothing has been done so far.

“Most tourists come to Jaisalmer for a camel safari and they like peaceful atmosphere and natural desert landscape. At night they like to sleep under the stars and enjoy the nature,” said Jitendra Singh, an eminent travel trade expert and a resort owner.

“These windmills make noise, disturbing the peace and also pollute the atmosphere. If more windmills are allowed in the area, the tourism industry will vanish completely from Jaisalmer,” he added.

Polkam, who was part of an eight-member group of French tourists, said that on their way to Rawla near Jaisalmer city they saw an alarming number of windmills.

“It is surprising how the authorities could allow so many windmills at a such a natural place. As a nature lover I regret this. If more windmills are allowed to come up, it is definitely going to ruin the tourism in this historic city in the near future,” said Polkam.

Last year 113,288 foreign and 274,469 Indian tourists visited Jaisalmer.

Surendra Singh, a resort owner, said the hotel industry will be in crisis if more windmills are built near the camel track or near historical places.

Jaisalmer has around 3,020 rooms in different categories of hotels while the camp accommodation in tents in the desert is around 600.

The travel and trade associations are not opposing construction of windmills but want that they should be installed away from tourist places, Virendra clarified.

A windmill helps convert energy of wind into rotational energy by means of vanes called sails or blades.

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