By February next year, you may have the opportunity to dive beneath the surface and see an underwater world. In an exciting development, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is clearing the decks to start a full-fledged training institute for scuba diving and other aqua sports in the coastal area of Devbaug, near Malvan in Sindhudurg district.
The Indian Institute of Scuba Diving and Aqua Sports (IISDA) will be the first such international institute in Asia. But other than the exciting aspect of discovering a whole new world, the MTDC is keen on training local fishermen who will be assigned as official trainers at IISDA. With an investment pegged at Rs 5 crore, most of the hurdles have been cleared, and according to MTDC officials, they are on track for the February 2014 launch.
Rahul Vasaikar, executive engineer, MTDC, while speaking to MiD DAY from Mumbai, said, “The IISDA will run seven different certificate courses for scuba enthusiasts, the duration of which will range between three and eight days. The process of getting the institute approved by Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), an international body of scuba diving, is already in progress, and by the month-end, MTDC will receive the approval from PADI.”
The planned venture will come up on a five-and-a-half acre land, which will have provisions for all required facilities — a residential facility for divers, restaurant and a conference room.
“We are hoping that the institute will attract tourists from across the globe. The Sindhudurg coastal region has rich marine life and this ambitious project would give tourists an opportunity to explore it,” Vasaikar said. The uniqueness of the project, an MTDC official said, is that local fishermen will be trained extensively, following which they will impart training to beginners.
“The scuba diving course will begin with training in a specially built 30-feet deep water tank. Once the divers get acclimatised, they would have test dives in the open water before receiving certification,” said an MTDC official.
Divers will also be imparted training on the use of air tanks, regulator, weights, a depth gauge, buoyancy vest, mask, snorkel and fins. The facility can train 32 divers at a time. If the project clicks, MTDC is also planning a similar initiative in their proposed mega project named Sea World, which is slated to come up in Malvan.
For the masses
Marine biologist and scuba diving instructor Sarang Kulkarni, who has spent 10 years in the Andaman Islands and has a rich diving experience, is consultant to IISDA. “Scuba diving is considered an elite sport restricted to the upper section of the society. However, IISDA will open the amazing marine world to common people. Anyone with basic swimming skills can come here and take lessons.”
He added, “If one likes the sport, after completing a four-day course, we will provide an international card, which is considered as an international licence to dive in any ocean across the globe.” “We are deliberately including local people in IISDA, because we firmly believe that conservation of marine life can be sustainable only if we include local population and provide them employment,” Kulkarni said.