//'The sea still remains a mystery to Indians'

'The sea still remains a mystery to Indians'

Viju B, 26 Feb, 2007 TIMES NEWS NETWORK

MUMBAI: "Indians do not enter the sea like Westerners do," said marina-builder Robin Walters as he rubs his sunburnt eyebrows.

He is convinced that for most Indians the sea is a mystery waiting to be explored. Walters was in Mumbai for the International Boat Show, which concluded on Sunday. The Britisher has been constructing marinas across the world for the last 25 years. "In fact, I have constructed 75,000 marina berths—might be a record of sorts," he said.

A marina has hundreds of such berths in which boats can be anchored and protected from the vagaries of the sea and human trespassing. A marina also provides amenities like fuel stations, boat servicing, restaurants, bars and other recreational activities. "A whole lifestyle—a culture of outdoor sports and lesser activities—surrounds a marina," Walters said.

Planners in Mumbai have been mulling over where to build a marina for the past few years. Proposed sites are as varied as Sassoon Dock to Uran. "If you need to protect the leisure boat in the sea along Mumbai's coast, you need to construct a marina," Walters said. An estimated 4,000 luxury boats will ply off Mumbai's coast in the coming year.

The marina was developed in the United Kingdom in 1964, after which most Scandinavian countries began constructing marinas along harbours and sea-fronts. "Today, there are around 150 marinas on the UK coast," Walters said. It is estimated that only 12% of the boats are actually in the sea at any point of time, while the rest are parked in the marina. "Most people don't like to be always in the sea. They want to come back to the coast quite often," Walters said.

He said the Konkan coast—including Goa, Sindhudurg and Kerala—has excellent potential for world-class sailing harbours. "We need to construct amenities like marinas so that people can sail and even stay away from the coast for a weekend," Walters said.

He staves off speculation about the possible adverse environmental impact of a marina. "The concrete piles erected for a marina have adequate gaps for the water to flow beneath. In fact, in the UK, we have an award for the best marina every year," he said.