Balukhand Wildlife Sanctuary turns into dumping yard

Puri: The Balukhand Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected reserve forest along the Puri–Konark coast was declared eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) in 2017. However, the sanctuary looks more like a dumping yard as picnickers and locals are littering the place unabashedly, flouting the orders of the Central Government.

Though several variety of trees have been planted in the sanctuary for protection of the forest cover, OTV, while carrying out a ground zero reality check, found heaps of untreated waste and garbage littered inside the forest.

While the number of tourists has declined considerably with the onset of summer in the State, garbage, including expired medicines, plastics, glass bottles, polythene and domestic wastes, is being dumped by picnickers and locals.

The litter is now dominating the landscape along the Marine Drive in Puri, defiling the aesthetic beauty of the tourist destination and posing a threat to wildlife as well.

An intellectual, Biswanath Das said, “The entire forest is full of plastic waste. The Forest and Environment department started the plastic-free campaign and Puri was one among the six cities where the ban was imposed. However, the department has not taken any measures to enforce the ban.”

“There is a nexus between the forest mafia and administration. The forest is spread around 40 kilometres between Puri and Konark and is house to many varieties of trees and species of animals. There is a deer park too. But the concerned authorities are not taking any steps to protect the forest and the animals,” alleged another intellectual, Amarendra Paikray.

On the other hand, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Puri Wildlife Division, Harshvardhan Udgata accepted the failure of the administration in protecting the forest from being polluted and said the local Eco Development Committee is not taking any measures to create awareness among the people and safeguarding the tourist spot.

“Five plaques with information on several wildlife norms have been installed this month and two more will be put up. The awareness created by the concerned department is not enough and needs to be intensified,” said Udgata.

A member of Baliguali Eco Development Committee, Raju Nayak alleged, “Though dustbins have been installed, people are disposing wastes in the open. Although we are guarding the forest, people are entering the forest and polluting it.”