By Garima Singh and Twesh Mishra
June 12, 2018 - In India, no one expected a coal mine to become a tourist attraction when the Eco-friendly Mine Tourism Circuit at Saoner near Nagpur was opened two years back.
According to official estimates, the footfalls at the Nagpur Eco Park have crossed 1.45 lakh. This number dwarfs the 10,000 footfalls that were registered two years ago, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had lauded Western Coalfields Ltd for developing the Eco-friendly Mine Tourism site.
Inspired by the success of the Nagpur circuit, WCL has started a similar venture at Rajur in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Next in the offing are sites across four more coal mines, this time in Madhya Pradesh.
Other mineral-rich States like Jharkhand are eyeing the tourism potential of their mines.
In his monthly address in March 2016, Modi had said: “Generally we don’t think of coal mines as places to be visited. WCL has made these same coal mines a destination for tourism.”
Modi also noted that when one sees pictures of miners, one wonders what it must be like out there. “We even have a saying, ‘coal blackens your hands’, hence people tend to stay away from coal mines,” he said.
This perception is changing and tourists are getting a glimpse into the lives of coal miners.
The eco parks are part of an effort to showcase the minimal environmental impact of coal mining operations.
Tourists can visit the depths of underground mines and watch the operations at the open-cast mine from a distance.
Santhosh Kumar, Vice Chairman of Anarock Property Consultants, said: “With lakhs of tourists already visiting the place so far, the eco park breaks all myths that coal mining places are dirty and grim. Instead, it is raising awareness about the importance of coal mining in the country by taking tourists into the depths of the Saoner underground mine and also showcasing operations at the Gondegaon open-cast mine from a distance.”
Kumar noted that while eco mine tourism is a novel concept in India, other countries — such as the US, Australia, Canada, Norway, Japan, Finland and Bolivia — have been harnessing these resources for a while now.
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