Forest dept puts brake on eco tourism complex near Bhitarkanika National Park

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Kendrapara: In a glaring instance of gross misuse of government funds, an eco tourism complex built at a cost of Rs 85 lakh near Bhitarkanika National Park has virtually gone down the drain with the Forest department putting brakes on the project.

The partially built tourist complex, the construction quality of which was left much to be desired may never be thrown open for public utility, has led one to believe that huge sum has been squandered recklessly by the concerned authorities.

The sordid tale of gross misuse of state exchequer has come to grab the spotlight, thanks to constant querying by an RTI activist.

The moot question that baffles one and all here is that how the state-run Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) had gone ahead with the construction of the complex without seeking clearance from the State Forest Department.

The partially built complex is situated just a stone’s throw away from the Park boundary.

The Forest department has stalled the project as it comes under eco-sensitive zone in the wildlife sanctuary. Without the sanction of approval from forest department, OTDC carried out the building construction work. After it was brought to notice, the work has stopped in accordance with standing rules, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Rajnagar Mangrove (forest) Department, Bimal Prasanna Acharya.

An RTI inquiry filed by a local RTI activist Anirudha Sethy uncovered the act of improprieties by OTDC.

“The partially constructed building near the national park entrance gate was brought to my notice. As I inquired about it, the Forest officials refused to reply to me query. There was whiff foul-play in the building project. Following the RTI application, I was able to know that huge funds were frittered away on the pretext of eco-tourism development”, he said.

“OTDC had to halt the project as necessary permission from the Forest department to run a commercial tourism complex as per Section 28 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 had not been sought, said District Tourists Officer, Bijoy Mahanty.

The area where the resort is being constructed is an eco sensitive zone. Any sort of permanent constructions will affect the ecological sensitivity of the region. The area where the resort has come up is frequented by estuarine crocodiles, spotted deer, birds and other animals, said Acharya.

Contacted, Deputy executive engineer of OTDC Sishir Ranjan Prusti said “The Forest department directed us to stop the construction of the partly-built tourist complex”.

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