Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Ecotourism is the buzzword. Odisha government, too, seems keen to make the most of it having set aside Rs 7.7 crore in the current budget for infrastructure development at ecotourism sites. This sector has tremendous potential for revenue generation and the best thing about it is that local communities have a stake.

In the last few years the focus has shifted from heritage and ethnic tourism to Nature and ecotourism. While the state government is already working on a project to develop ecotourism destinations at 30 places across 22 districts facilities for tourists may also come up at some other sites known for their scenic beauty.

Currently the ambitious ecotourism project is being jointly implemented by tourism and forest and environment departments with forest officials taking care of infrastructure development and their tourism counterparts creating the right kind of buzz around these sites. Publicity, after all, is a key element of tourism promotion. It is time the state marketed its numerous tourist destinations properly.

If sources are to be believed work is at an advanced stage at most of these sites including Mangaljodi on the banks of the famous Chilika lake which attracts lakhs of migratory birds during the winter. Mangaljodi, which has the reputation of being a bird watchers’ paradise, now boasts of a state-of-the-art bird interpretation centre for the benefit of tourists.

Steps are also being taken to construct at least a dozen rooms, watchtowers and nature  trails  in  the  area which was once infamous for bird poaching. Other sites being developed by the government as part of the project include Barakhandia and Dhodrokusum under the Hirakud wildlife division, Kumari and Jamuani the under Baripada wildlife division, Deras and Godibari under the Chandaka wildlife division and Tarava and Chhotkei under the Satkosia wildlife division.

Odisha having been blessed with bounteous natural beauty the government should do everything possible to exploit its potential for tourism development to the optimum. The strategy of focusing on forest-clad tribal areas like Kandhmal and Sundergarh is fine but there should be an effort to identify lesser known sites. While places like Daringbadi in Kandhmal and Khadadhar in Sundergarh are already drawing tourists thanks to the government focus on them many smaller sites have not been highlighted properly.

The idea of community participation in the management of ecotourism sites is brilliant because it makes local communities a stakeholder instilling a sense of responsibility in them.  The “sarkar ka maal dariya mein dal” ( let government money go waste) attitude vanishes the moment  the communities inhabiting these places realise that they, too, are going to make money out of it.

This will not only make them more careful about the maintenance of these sites but also more hospitable towards the visiting tourists. This is the best way of drawing tourists to Odisha which despite its tremendous potential in this sector has not been as successful as some other states. Time has come to change that by making the tourism sector more vibrant with new ideas and initiatives.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are 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.)