Himansu Shekhar Rout

The historic Barunei Hill, a major tourist spot in Odisha’s Khordha, is allegedly losing its sheen amid the mushrooming growth of industrial units, which are posing a threat to it. 

The hill has started showing tell-tale signs of ill impact. Its perennial stream has dried up and timber mafias are allegedly stripping of its greenery. Its flora is depleting day by day, reports said.

Locals and tourists have expressed concerns over the problems. 

Maa Barunei peetha is ensconced on the Barunei hill. People say it was once breathtakingly beautiful because of its natural bounties. It was endowed with a sprawling verdant forest, and a perennial hill stream and a cool sylvan atmosphere. 

The place assumes even more significance as the cradle of Paika Bidroha (paika revolt), which is believed to be the first freedom struggle of India, though the Sepoy mutiny was considered the country’s first freedom struggle.  

However, over the years, the scenic place has been losing its greenery, and the stream that cascaded down from the hilltop dried three to four years ago. The hill’s deteriorating condition stands in stark contrast to the development works for the shrine for which crores of rupees are being spent. 

Satyanarayan Mohapatra, the temple priest said, "We want development of the shrine. Some works for the hill stream were taken up, but it was abandoned halfway.” 

Bijay Kumar Pradhan, a tourist lamented, “People usually love the natural beauty of the place. The main attraction was the stream. It has dried up. Tourists come for the comfort of the cool atmosphere.” 

The Paika revolt against British rule had taken place on the foothill. To commemorate the historic event, a decision has been taken to set up a memorial. In 2018, the foundation stone for the memorial was laid. However, its work has not progressed much.

It was cyclone Fani that dealt a blow to the greenery of Barunei Hill.  Thereafter, the timber Mafia allegedly continues to fell trees in the forest. 

As industrial units are popping up around the hill, they are allegedly having an adverse impact on the environment of the place. 

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Kamalakant Jaysingh, a tourist said, "Here was a dense forest. Mafia are felling trees at their will. There are no protective measures to save the greenery. One project after another is being announced, but all have flopped.”  

Khordha Ranger, Jaykrushna Panda said, "A defective log was recently found cut down. We seized it.  Since then, we have been carrying out night patrolling. Our staffs are guarding the forest as we observed some tree felling.”

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