British Cemetery in Mahanadi delta to be restored

Kendrapara: A famous British Cemetery situated in the idyllic Mahanadi delta here is in ruins due to years of neglect and apathy.

Its origin traced to the Victorian era, the cemetery is situated in the premises of another heritage structure – the False-point Lighthouse which is one of the oldest lighthouses in the country. A look at the cemetery, which carries the British colonial legacy, with its crumbling masonry and decaying brick work reveals the extent of the neglect.

Both the structures are corroding fast under the impact of atmospheric salinity with the sea located close by and vandals defacing them with impunity in the absence of any protective barrier. However, authorities have now decided to revamp the entire lighthouse complex with the British Cemetery.

Kendrapara district Collector Pradipta Kishore Patnaik said the area would be developed and given a facelift to attract tourists as part of a central plan. "The restoration of the lighthouse and the cemetery has immense potential for eco-tourism," the collector said.

Records say the lighthouse was commissioned in 1838 and though the age of the cemetery is not mentioned, its origin is presumed to be around that date.

The gravestones in the cemetery carry inscriptions of the late lighthouse staff and their families. Prominent among them was Captain H A Harris, conservator of Odisha ports, who met a watery grave in May, 1877. His memory is treasured in the cemetery.

The then collector of Balashore, John Beames, in his autobiography "Memoirs of a Bengal Civilian" illustrates vividly about the False-point Lighthouse and the British cemetery.

The autobiographical piece maintained that the Britons had met their untimely end because of illnesses as the area was quite inhospitable and inaccessible at that time, Vasudev Das, a researcher, said.

Bijoy Kumar Rath, a former superintendent of the State Archaeology Department, said, "The government should have taken up the cemetery for conservation under the World Bank-funded Integrated Coastal Zone Management Programme.“ But, strangely while a British cemetery near Gopalpur in Ganjam district was included in the coastal heritage restoration project of ICZMP, the one at Kendrapara was not, he lamented.