Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari hopes that the project to develop 189 lighthouses and 1,300 islands along the Indian coast as tourist destinations will bring in investments of over ₹10,000 crore.

“Our target is that by 2020, we want to add about 50 lakh jobs, using the road and shipping sectors. The 7,500-km coastline will be exploited for tourism, hotels, resorts, yoga centres and spas. We are not looking at making money from this venture but creating additional employment for the local villagers, because, in tourism projects, about 46 per cent of the capital is deployed for manpower,” Gadkari said in an interview with BusinessLine .

Taking on ambitious projects is not something new for Gadkari. In the mid-1990s, he built the Mumbai-Pune expressway in record time, that too after saving about ₹2,000 crore in project expenses.

Lighthouses identified Now, he wants to develop lighthouses and islands as tourist destinations. In the first phase, 78 lighthouses have been identified in all coastal States and the islands of Andaman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep.

The lighthouses will be developed through the public-private-partnership route. Private companies will be allowed to develop the area around lighthouses for tourist facilities. Feasibility studies for island development are under way.

The land adjacent to the lighthouses will have hotels, resorts, maritime and heritage museums, adventure sports facilities, spa and rejuvenation centres. The Ministry will get the necessary clearances before handing over the site to the developers. Gadkari said the potential of developing tourist facilities would be explored at all sites. The potential sites will then be put on the block using public tenders and the Swiss Challenge method for selecting the developers. In the Swiss Challenge method, anyone with credentials can submit a development proposal to the government. That proposal will be put online and a second person can give suggestions to improve and beat that proposal.

As a pilot, four lighthouses — Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Alappuzha and Kannur — have been turned into tourist sites. The Minister said the developers will have to follow environment friendly measures, such as waste-water recycling and solar panels for electricity generation. The Ministry will provide up to ₹10 crore as grant-in-aid to the developers for building a floating jetty around the lighthouse. The Tourism Ministry will also provide some incentives.

A group of secretaries from Shipping, Tourism and State Governments, will be formed and work on problems faced by the businessmen in developing thee lighthouses.

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