Pradeep Pattanayak

Known world over for its structural marvels, the Konark Sun Temple is under imminent threat. 

The threat is in the form of climatic assault since sand mafias have now set their eyes on Balibanta, which has been acting as a protection wall not just for the Sun Temple but also the coast line and the surrounding rich bio diversity, flora and fauna. 

A local outfit formed to save Balibanta, Konark Balibanta Suraksha Samiti, has been organising strikes and staging demonstrations protesting the rampant loot of sand.   

The members of the Samiti on Thursday met the district Collector and handed over a memorandum wherein they have demanded a probe into the illegal sand mining and 8nitiation of steps for the safety of Balibanta.   

The Balibanta coast, a part of 480-km-long sea shore of the State, has long been providing safety to the coastal forests.
However, the magnitude at which the sand mafias are excavating sand from Balibanta will have a catastrophic impact on the Sun temple and the rich biodiversity, they say. 

With the administrative officials reportedly looking the other way, the sand mafias are having a field day, mining sands from Balibanta without any lease permission on the pretext of periphery development of Konark launched by the State government. 

What this suggests is that an unholy nexus exists between sand smugglers, contractors and the revenue department officials. 
In this regard, convener of Konark Balibanta Suraksha Samiti Raj Kishore Mohapatra alleged, “In the pretext of road construction, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has been destroying the Balibanta. The contractors engaged by it are mining sand mindlessly.”