Gandhinagar: Vhali the whale shark stood proudly at the entrance to the eco-tourism pavilion at Vibrant Gujarat, a concept that aims to attract prospective investors to the state. Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) had participated in the celebrations welcoming the efforts of the state government to remodel the state into a favorite eco-tourism destination of the country. WTI’s star campaign to save the Whale Shark, Pride of Gujarat, which was extensively carried out in the coastal areas for protection of this species found prominence in the discussions on eco-tourism and the pavilions that drew crowds out of curiosity.
Coinciding with the Navratri Mahotsav festivities in the state, Vibrant Gujarat took to a higher note with hundreds and thousands of people that had come out on streets to celebrate “Garba,” made a beeline at the innumerable theme pavilions displaying Vibrant Gujarat at its best.
Inflatable “Vhali” the whale shark was displayed as part of the celebrations at the helipad grounds in Gandhinagar, the state capital. Sectoral theme pavilions, such as adventure tourism, eco-tourism, medical tourism, etc were elaborately laid out across the helipad ground. A major draw was the inflatable “Vhali” at the entrance to the eco-tourism pavilion, where visitors thronged to see the giant fish.
One of the core components of the WTI’s campaign was to influence the government and the concerned departments to promote marine eco-tourism in this state that boasts of the longest coastline in India. The campaign finds expression on the fact that an ideal conservation model for wildlife would facilitate employment opportunities and livelihood by augmenting innovative tourism avenues. A feasibility study would be attempted on a model on the lines of an existing tourism industry in Australia, where a live whale shark generates many more times the revenue than a dead one. Whale shark watching, diving, and snorkeling in Australia is a flourishing tourism model that can be emulated off the coast of Gujarat after suitable adaption to local conditions.
Continuous destruction and plunder of this rich natural heritage would bring disastrous consequences to wildlife and loss of precious revenue that otherwise the state would have immensely benefited through eco-tourism. The inflatable whale shark in the helipad ground attempts to carry forward this message, while generating pride in the visitors about the existence of the world’s largest fish off their coast.
As part of the vibrant Gujarat celebrations, a seminar on adventure and eco tourism potentials in the state was organized on 7 October 2005 at the town hall in Gandhinagar. It was attended by various officials from the Gujarat Forest Department, Tourism Department, member secretaries, Director General, Gujarat Sports Authority, and Director GEER Foundation. Dr M K Ranjitsinh Trustee of Wildlife Trust of India was the Chairperson in the meeting.
All participants welcomed the tourism proposal of the state government, particularly when the core value lies in the fact that it promotes wildlife and nature conservation. In addition, it provides for alternate livelihood rather than destruction and plunder of nature. Modern eco-tourism turning into this promising enterprise of the state government would contribute to economic prosperity.
The event is being organized annually for attracting entrepreneurs and likely investors from abroad who would like to participate in various developmental projects initiated by the state government. In addition to tax benefits, new avenues for business were opened-up to attract foreign investment in the state and for achieving rapid economic growth. A series of cultural programmes, seminars, meetings, and trade fares were organized to display the exceptional economic growth in the state and the priority areas of development in the near future. Visitors from all over India and abroad have gathered in the state to participate and get a peek of this grand array of activities planned for the event.
The inflatable Vhali of vibrant Gujarat has unleashed a fresh lease of energy into the sagging morale for conservation of wildlife and the upbeat mood of the visitors in the pavilions could not have been better. Visitor’s curiosity in the pavilions and positive vibes for eco-tourism is evident of the growing support of the public and encouragements for initiating tourism projects in the state. Eco-tourism is the order of the day and inflatable Vhali stands to salvage the pride of millions of Gujaratis.
Photo Credit: WTI Photo Stock