News comes in a week after the Navy Chief Admiral Lanba confirmed that the Indian Navy ship – INS Viraat – will no longer be converted into a floating museum/hotel after the Andhra Pradesh government developed cold feet regarding its cost. The aircraft carrier that was supposed to be sold for scrap within four months still has hope, seeing as how the Maharashtra government has evinced interest in it. The state is reportedly interesting in acquiring the aircraft carrier and transforming it into an underwater memorial off the Sindhudurg coast – 500 KMs south of Mumbai.
“The proposed memorial will become an artificial reef and is expected to be a world-class scuba diving site. This will help to boost tourism not only in Sindhudurg but also in Ratnagiri,” says a proposal from the state’s tourism department, as reported by NDTV. The day before the warship was decommissioned, the Navy Chief had stated that he did not want INS Viraat to linger indefinitely in hope that the Andhra Pradesh government would be really interested in acquiring her, or any state government in fact.
He further suggested on the occasions that, “One proposal could be that we convert her into a marine museum by taking her to one of our major tourist harbours and sink her in the water and make her into a dive site where some aircraft carriers have been put to rest also. She would be there as a legacy.” Looks like, if not Andhra Pradesh, some state government finally took notice and the Maharashtra government is interested to “keep the name and existence of INS Viraat in history by creating the world’s second largest underwater memorial and artificial reef,” according to the note from its tourism officials.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fasnavis has also briefed on the proposal and the state government will most likely write to the Ministry of Defence about their interest in taking over the ship in the coming days. Experts have suggested that the ship be sunk 24 KMs west of Vijaydurg, in a part of the Arabian Sea, where the waters are reportedly crystal clear. The ship would be sunk using explosives to a depth of approximately 50 meters and would be accessible to divers of varied expertise. The mast would be just 10 meters beneath the surface of the sea. “The underwater memorial,” the proposal says, “could generate employment for over 500 youth and indirect employment for over 4000 people.”
The process of converting the ship into an underwater memorial – after removal of harmful asbestos and wiring – could take up to a year. It could also eventually become a sanctuary for the marine life in the region as sunken ships usually create a diverse marine habitat and a micro-eco-system. Wreck diving is something India could do with in terms of tourism, and will surely make it one of the biggest attractions to scuba divers, as it is rarely offered in the country.