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Nehru Trophy snake boat race gets fresh lease of life

Proposed cargo terminal to be shifted; snake boat races to continue


23 June, 2005: An exotic snake boat race has got a fresh lease of life. Keralaís annual Nehru Trophy boat race set in scenic backwaters of Alappuzha, was to have been consigned to the fringes of history, as a cargo terminal was to be built in the site by the Inland Water Authority of India, where the annual race takes place.

But after the issue kicked up a controversy, the Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, Tourism Minister K C Venugopal and Member of Parliament from Alappuzha Dr K S Manoj met Union Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, T R Baalu, in New Delhi and extracted a promise from him that the terminal would be shifted from the site. The site is considered the hub of house boats in the state. Kerala has a stretch of 100 kilometres of backwaters.

A cargo terminal at the site would have also deeply dented the prospects of Keralaís backwater tourism, experts say. The state has proposed to the Centre that the terminal be set up in Palluruthy. Baaalu has directed IWAI chairman to make a trip to the area on July 1 along with Venugopal and Dr. Manoj and make appropriate recommendations after holding talks with the state authorities.

Snake boat races are a common feature in the harvest season in Kerala, Godís own country. Nehru Trophy is the most prestigious of them, others being Champakulam Moolam Boat Race and Aranmula boat race. The Nehru trophy began in 1952 as an impromptu race to mark the countryís first Premier Jawaharlal Nehruís visit to Alappuzha. A thrilled Nehru donated a silver trophy with this inscription: " To the winners of the boat race which is a unique feature of community life in Travancore - Cochin." 

It is held in the second Saturday in August on the Punnamada backwaters. The race course extends to a stretch of about 1370 meters.

Kerala has of late been promoting tourism aggressively, but despite its well-acclaimed campaigns , the state failed to register any significant progress in off-season tourist arrivals. The Ayurveda and heritage tourism sectors have of course benefited from the campaigns. But off season has been identified as a concern area, and in a bid to fix this, Kerala Tourism had roped in popular television star Smruti Irani to do promotional ad campaigns. This is an obvious bid to woo domestic tourists from outside Godís Own Country. National Geographic had listed Kerala in a top-50 list of must-see destinations of a life-time.


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