Panel yet to finalise report on impact on fishing activity

Seaplanes which faced opposition from the fishermen community will not resume their operations until the general elections are over.

The operations could begin by the end of April or in May, according to officials of Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Limited (KTIL).

The expert committee constituted to study the impact of the operations on fishing activity is yet to finalise its report. The committee has made consultations and discussions at meetings convened a month ago, but the opportunity for making a spot study during takeoff and landing has not been received as the only seaplane which was brought for the inaugural flight at Kollam had been flown back to Bangalore.

Three operators are willing to operate flights in Kerala and preparations are in full swing, the KTIL officials said.

Orders given for craft

A Kochi-based operator told The Hindu that it had given orders to a U.S.-based company to make a craft for its operations in Kerala. The seaplane is in final stages of completion and it would be brought to Kerala soon, he said. A representative of the operator said the company had plans to launch operations between Kochi and Lakshadweep. Flights are also being planned from tourist spots such as Bekal in northern Kerala and to destinations in Karnataka. The plane could be offered for evacuation during natural disasters and for transporting patients who needed emergency medical attention.

Meanwhile, a seaplane operator is set to launch operations in Mumbai. The plan is to connect places of tourist importance where air connectivity is lacking. The operations are scheduled to start by the end of March, according to sources in the industry.

The fishermen who raised concerns of losing their livelihood due to the operation of seaplane in backwaters have not retracted from their stand. The fishermen community is backed by various trade unions. It is unlikely that the unions would take a softer stand during the election period. The community is a potential vote bank for political parties. The seaplane issue has turned out to be a rallying point for some political parties which have gathered strength in the coastal belts where fishermen live in large numbers.

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