Paradise lost! After Fani fury, Balukhand sanctuary now a sad spectacle

Puri: Nature, a wonderful creator can sometimes become a cruel destroyer and it has rightly been proved in the case of cyclone Fani which ravaged the coastal district of Puri. In particular, the extent of damage it has caused to the Balukhand sanctuary is truly heart breaking.

One of the ‘char dhams’ of the country, Puri is not only a centre of Hindu culture and tradition, but a nature’s paradise with beautiful sea beaches and the mesmerising Balukhand wildlife sanctuary etched on its contours. After taking darshan of the ‘Holy trinity’, visitors seldom return without enjoying the beautiful experience of journey to Konark through Balukhand sanctuary, the route famously called Marine Drive.

But unfortunately, the sanctuary is no more a nature’s paradise. Cyclone Fani, which passed through the region after making landfall on May 3 has caused severe damage to the ecosystem of the sanctuary.

Although the extent of damage to the animal species inside the wildlife sanctuary is yet to be ascertained, forest authorities claim that around 80 lakh trees have been decimated during the cyclone. Hundreds of acres of mangrove forest which once stood as a protector of the pilgrim city, neem, cashew and several types of other tree species have suffered the maximum damage in the cyclone.

It is believed that many species of animals including more than 4,000 deers may have survived the disaster as the cyclone made landfall during the day.

ACF, Puri Forest Range, Biranchi Narayan Samal said, “Barring 2 to 3 percent trees, mostly mangroves, the rest have been uprooted. We believe that deer and other animal species may have survived because of the mangroves.”

Apart from wildlife, the tourism sector in the region has also taken a hit. After the cyclone, inflow of tourists to the area has also recorded a sharp dip leaving the traders in distress. The Marine Drive road along the coast which attracts a lot of tourists has also suffered extensive damages due to high storm surge during the cyclone.

“Before the cyclone, the region was so beautiful that tourists loved to come here often but the cyclone has destroyed everything. I had never expected to experience such a devastating cyclone. Now we are worried since tourists from outside the State may not come here to visit,” said a shopkeeper.