.........BHUBANESWAR: The Standing Committee of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) on Friday rejected a proposal for construction of a private eco resort within Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary on the grounds that it may open the floodgates for similar projects in one of India’s finest eco-hotspots.
In its third meeting, the 16-member standing panel, chaired by Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray, discussed the resort project which was proposed by Padma Hospital Pvt Ltd over 1.416 hectare private land in Nalitapatia mouza located within the wildlife sanctuary limits.
Sources told this paper that some members pointed out that there is no Central guideline which favours construction of a commercial resort within wildlife sanctuary.
Though there was initially a positive mood towards the project in the meeting, after deliberations, it was felt that allowing a private resort inside the sanctuary may open the door for corporates which would want to set up similar projects.
Since Bhitarkanika has revenue land within the wildlife sanctuary limits, permitting one private hospitality body to set up shop could eventually lead to legal problems in future when more such proposals come up.
There are about 410 villages inside Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. Since no restriction can be imposed on transaction of revenue land, the standing committee decided not to encourage entry of private sector for such resorts which will require permanent construction work.
“Even if conditions are issued by the State Government to meet environmental parameters by the private sector, monitoring would entail a huge task,” the sources said.
The members pointed that such a trend may eventually set a precedent for other wildlife sanctuaries such as Satkosia and Similipal which draw tourists from across the country.
The meeting also recommended that private tenting facilities and guest-houses existing in the sanctuary limits would be given a window to exit.
Bhitarkanika is one of the major mangrove hotspots of the country which is also home to salt water crocodiles, at least seven species of dolphins, birds besides other flora and fauna. It is also vying for a World Heritage Site (WHS) status.
The SBWL panel discussed a proposal for re-diversion of a 4.31 hectare forest land within Chandaka-Dampara reserve forest which is part of Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary for laying water supply pipelines for IIT, NISER, Infocity and other areas.
It was given a go ahead with the condition that the project proponent will provide water supply to protection camps and temporary water holes in the sanctuary. This will be placed before the National Board for Wildlife’s next meeting.
No Central guideline for commercial resort in wildlife sanctuary
Allowing a private resort may open the door for corporates to set up similar projects
No restriction can be imposed on transaction of revenue land
Monitoring the State Govt conditions would entail a huge task.