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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 January, 2004, 17:56 GMT
Snow melts hearts in Hyderabad
By Omer Farooq
BBC correspondent in Hyderabad

Boy in Hyderabad's Snow World
Thousands turned up to discover how snow felt - and even tasted
The southern Indian city of Hyderabad, where summer temperatures can soar to 45C, is now enjoying a feast of snow.

There has never been a snowfall here, but residents can now slide and skate on ice and throw snowballs at each other in India's first snow park.

On its first day, more than 10,000 visitors flocked to Snow World - which can only take up to 300 people at one time.

"It created such a situation that we had to put off our plans of throwing open the park to the public from Tuesday," said Venkateshwara Rao of the Ocean Park Multi-Tech Company which promotes the park.

This is a priceless gift to the people of this part of the country
Businessman Syed Ehtesham
"Now we will do it only from 1 February after streamlining everything."

A public-private partnership venture, Snow World has an indoor "Cryo Zone" full of attractions from a natural snowscape, with alpine forest, huts and simulated figures of penguins and polar bears.

"With 17,000 square feet of the snow-covered Cryo Zone, this is the world's biggest snow theme park," Mr Rao said.

"Of course Singapore and Malaysia have snow domes, but this is far bigger."

'Out of the world'

The company spent 120 million rupees ($2.65m) setting up the project using technical expertise from companies in Switzerland and Australia.

I was hoping the snow will come like raining water, falling from above
Schoolboy Vishnu
"It is an out-of-the-world experience for all of us," said Surender Reddy, an engineer involved in making snow for the project.

"It was very difficult initially to convince the people that such a project is possible. We are using a patented technology from Australia involving the use of nitrogen."

The project requires 200 tons of ice at any given time and it is replenished by two to three tons of fresh snow made every day.

Thimmaiah Gupta, chairman of Ocean Park, said: "There is no health hazard as we are using water filtered four times for producing snow. There will be no harm even if people consume the snow."

Boys in Hyderabad's Snow World
The project uses 200 tons of ice at any one time
That is exactly what many visitors - especially the kids - did when they went inside the snow dome on the first day.

The first visitors had a gala time, enjoying the tube slide, sculptures, igloos, sleigh slide, ice-bumping cars, merry-go-round and ice-skating.

Dressed in warm clothes fit for Eskimos, men, women and boisterous children skied down the snow and hurled snowballs at each other.

Bharati, a Hyderabad housewife who visited with her family and children, said it was her first experience of snow.

"I have never been to Kashmir or any other place like that," she said. "But now I know how wonderful it feels to be there. It was my first taste of snow and sub-zero temperatures."

Fun and games

A Hyderabad schoolboy, Kaushik, found plenty of things to do in the snow.

"I made a lot of sculptures of snow and also threw snowballs at my family members," he said, rubbing his cold cheeks which had been reddened by the -5C temperature.

Other children said they were a little disappointed not to find themselves in a kind of snowstorm familiar only through watching films.

I was curious to see how snow looks and feels in a place like Hyderabad
Student Mohammed Faiz
"I was hoping the snow will come like raining water, falling from above," said Vishnu, 10.

Businessman Syed Ehtesham said it was a "priceless gift" for those who could not afford to visit far-off places like Switzerland or even Kashmir where snow falls naturally.

"This will be a very popular spot for the families to go out."

Curiosity

Many of those who queued to be turned away, however, were disappointed.

"I was curious to see how snow looks and feels in a place like Hyderabad," said student Mohammed Faiz.

Boys in Hyderabad's Snow Park
Snow World used technology from overseas to create its arctic area
"But I also feel that an entry fee of 250 rupees [$5.50] for one hour is too high," he said.

But company officials say the admission fee reflects the high input costs.

And the state government, a partner in the project, is also happy.

Andhra Pradesh's Chief Minister, N Chandrababu Naidu, says the park will come as a shot in the arm for local tourism.

In the area around Snow World, many more tourism projects are planned.

Officials hope that tourist visits to the state, already up by 50% on three years ago, will climb still more dramatically.




SEE ALSO:
Country Profile: India
03 Dec 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: India
23 Jan 04  |  Country profiles


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