Op-Ed: Why It Takes A Fani To Remind Us Of Tourism Development?

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: During my recent visit to Puri to report the damage caused by cyclone Fani in the temple town I found state tourism secretary in a huddle with local hoteliers and energy department officials. He was trying to sort out the problems of the hotel industry in a bid to put tourism in Puri back on the track.

True Fani has taken a heavy toll of tourism infrastructure not only in Puri but also in several other coastal districts of the state. But why does it take a cyclone of such destructive force to focus our attention on a sector which has immense potential for development and job generation? And why is it that we still can’t think beyond the Sri Jagannath temple in Puri, the sun temple in Konark and the Dhauli stupa on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar when it comes to development of tourism?

Concepts like nature tourism, beach tourism and sports tourism have developed in the state only recently, the last one taking shape after the successful organisation of Men’s hockey world cup in Bhubaneswar. Eco-tourism is still at a nascent stage with work still going on at 30 sites across 22 districts to create facilities good enough for Nature lovers to enjoy the bounteous gift of God to the state.

A joint initiative of forest and tourism departments the eco-tourism project is seen by many as a game changer in the field of tourism. While forest department is responsible for developing the required infrastructure at these places tourism officials will take care of publicity.

If sources are to be believed work is at an advanced stage at most of the sites including Mangaljodi on the banks of the Chilika lake where lakhs of migratory birds from various parts of Asia and Eastern Europe congregate each winter. With Nalabana, state’s largest bird sanctuary set in the heart of Chilika having already received a lot of favourable publicity the focus is now on places like Mangalajodi.

Chilika Development Authority (CDA), the body tasked with development and ecological conservation of the lake, has renovated the bird interpretation center at Mangaljodi adding to its attraction. With maps and charts depicting the migration pattern of birds, their ecology and congregation sites the centre is bound to be a hit with foreign tourists.

Sources said steps are also being taken to construct at least a dozen rooms, watchtowers and nature trails at Mangalajodi, a place which till a few years ago was notorious for bird poaching. Its journey from being a poachers’ paradise to a safe haven of migratory birds is fascinating. This is a story visiting tourists must be told.

But making such sites attractive for tourists takes a lot of imaginative planning and hard work, attributes that our bureaucrats appear to lack singularly. If tourism in Odisha has to turn into an industry in the true sense of the term bureaucrats must change their attitude. They should have an elevated sense of purpose that would automatically result in greater commitment.

(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.)