.........BARIPADA: The eco-tourism project at Manchabandha village under Baripada forest division, aimed at conserving green canopy and wildlife over 285 hectares (ha), has been lying in cold storage for the last five years due to lack of financial support.
Sources said in 2012, the Gram Sabhas held at Bagdiha, Mahulia, Goudadiha and Swarupavilla villages had approved the project proposal and subsequently, it was sanctioned by the State Government. The villagers had also proposed that the project be named Sri Ram Batika. Except for a few infrastructure works, nothing has been done so far for the project.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sanjay Kumar Swain said an allotment of `10 crore was sought from the State Government for the implementation of the project. However, the Forest and Environment department had sanctioned a meagre `50 lakh and released only `20 lakh during 2012-13 fiscal. With this fund, the administration had taken up basic infrastructure works such as road, main entrance gate, toilet, drinking water facilities and a pond inside the project area. Later, it was stopped due to protest by locals, he said.
Under the project, there was a proposal to conserve the forest, wildlife and eco-system through plantation and other activities. It was aimed at growing medicinal plants and fruit-bearing trees, protecting bamboo forest and conserving 75 bamboo species, setting up water bodies for wildlife, developing artificial nests, promoting eco-tourism and providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for villagers of Manchabandha, Karatbasa, Bagdiha, Mahulia, Goudadiha and Gudikhamari under Pithabata forest range, the DFO said. This apart, it was decided to utilise 50 per cent of revenue generated from the project for development of the locals. Similarly, villagers will be allowed to collect dry wood and leaves from the project area once a week.
Nature lovers Saroj Kumar Sahu, Vanoo Mitra Acharya, Bibhudatta Das and Maniklal Pani have sought the intervention of the local MP and MLAs to provide financial support from MPLAD and MLA LAD funds for the project. They said the project will attract thousands of tourists as it is located near Similipal which has several waterfalls.
Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Arun Kumar Patra said in 2016, `five lakh was sanctioned by the department to complete the construction work and repair of toilet.