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Column: We Must Look Beyond Puri and Gopalpur

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By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Among the major tourist attractions of the state the beaches at Puri and Gopalpur have been rated as the second and fourth most clean in the country respectively in a survey conducted by the National Centre for Coastal Research ( NCCR), an institute functioning under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. The findings should warm the cockles of tourism department mandarins.

But the credit for proper maintenance of these beaches goes to the local administrations, especially the municipal authorities tasked with the cleanliness of areas falling under their jurisdiction. Tourism department only benefits from their efforts. While there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of good situation officials in charge of tourism promotion should try to focus on promoting several other destinations that could be of interest to people visiting Odisha to explore its natural beauty.

Chandrabhaga and Ramchandi are two other better-known beaches of Odisha, both located along the Konark-Puri marine drive. They are unique in their own ways and thronged daily by droves of fun-loving tourists. But the tourism department’s efforts should be directed at bringing into limelight the many smaller beaches which are yet to be explored fully. One of these is the Baliharichandi beach between Puri and Satpada. It’s an enchanting stretch of sand across stands of casuarina trees.

Beaches are only one of the many attractions of Odisha. The state has beautiful forests and captivating wildlife sanctuaries apart from dozens of waterfalls that need to be promoted as tourist destinations much more aggressively. Unfortunately, we have even failed to showcase our major water bodies like Chilika properly. The lake has hardly anything new to offer to the visitors except boat rides which are more rewarding during the winter when both birds and dolphins can be seen in large numbers.

The truth is eco-tourism remained neglected in Odisha even when states like Kerala were cashing in on it in a big way. Our government started taking it seriously only a few years ago with the result that we have been lagging behind many others in this field. In the last few years, the only major effort in this direction has been the drive to develop eco-tourism destinations at 30 places across 22 districts in the state. The government set aside a sum of Rs.7.7 crore for infrastructure development at the eco-tourism sites.

The project has resulted in places like Mangaljodi on the banks of the famous Chilika lake witnessing significant tourist infrastructure development. The place thronged by bird lovers during the winter now boasts of a state-of-the-art bird interpretation centre which promises to be a big draw. Nature trails are also being developed in some important places.

The project also envisages the development of other eco-tourism sites like Barakhandia and Dhodrokusum under the Hirakud wildlife division, Kumari and Jamuani under Baripada wildlife division, Deras and Godibari under the Chandaka wildlife division and Tarava and Chhotkei under the Satkosia wildlife division. Work is at an advanced at most of these places which should be able to attract more tourists in future. For tourism in Odisha to grow we need more such initiatives.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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