NGT Bans Cruise in Bhopal, what about these places where it is still floating?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Bhopal recently issued a ruling stating that cruise boats in various water bodies of Madhya Pradesh were operating illegally and should not continue, as they violate various environmental laws.

The NGT observed that the water bodies of MP are “for the benefit of the people” and the state is “under the obligation to protect”. The move has put a spanner in the works for MP’s budding cruise ship tourism industry, a trend that has been quickly catching onto other states with large coastlines and inland rivers.

NGT Bans Cruise in Bhopal: Why?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned cruise boats in Bhopal’s Upper Lake because of emissions from diesel engines. The NGT said that emissions from fuel-powered boats make water bodies acidic, which can harm humans and aquatic life.

The NGT’s order states that the cruise boat operates with two diesel engines of 125 HP capacities, providing a total capacity of 250 HP. The cruise boat also has two 450-watt sound boxes whose noise levels were above the permissible limit. The cruise ship’s path was near the Van Vihar National Park, which falls under the silence zone.

The state argued that the cruise ship was smaller in size than marine-operated ships and was not subject to the Water Act, 1974, Air Act, 1981, and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The cruise ship’s waiting lounge and jetty were designed by the state to avoid causing pollution to the lake.

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The Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC) closed cruise boat operations at Bhopal and Shivpuri. The MPTDC also decided not to put any old boats in the water.

The NGT’s order did not include a ban on boats without motors.

Impact of NGT’s Ruling

The NGT’s ruling has put a stop to the cruise ship tourism industry in Madhya Pradesh, which was rapidly gaining popularity. 

One of the industry’s most ambitious upcoming projects, however, is the luxury cruise on the Narmada River. This cruise will traverse three states, including MP, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, as it journeys from Barwani to the Statue of Unity in Gujarat.

The ruling has also set a precedent for other states to follow suit and take similar actions against cruise boats that violate environmental laws.

What about other places where it is still floating?

Furthermore, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways reports that India’s largest river cruise is the MV Ganga Vilas, a 51-day journey that takes passengers through major cities such as Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Guwahati in Assam.

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The ministry also acknowledges that the global river cruise market has experienced a steady 5% growth in recent years and experts predict it will constitute 37% of the total cruise market by 2027.

In India, most river cruises focus on the Ganges, the Brahmaputra in the northeast, and the backwaters of Kerala.

While maritime cruise services are primarily available at ports in Mumbai, Cochin, Chennai, Goa, and Vishakapatnam, the ministry is investing Rs 1,122 Crore to develop 13 port projects across the country to boost cruise tourism.

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