Bhubaneswar: Expressing concerns over exclusion of tourist sites of Odisha from the Centre’s list of 17 iconic tourism sites, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday wrote to Union Tourism and Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel demanding to include at least two tourist places of important in the list.
“Tourism sector contributes about 13% to the state’s GDP and needs a strategic boost. Keeping in view the importance of the tourism sector for the state of Odisha, it is requested that the Government of India may consider inclusion of at least two tourist places of importance in the list of Iconic Tourism Sites,” the CM wrote.
Naveen proposed two of these sites – Konark Sun Temple, Chilika Lake, Bhitarkanika National Park, Simlipal National Park and Diamond Triangle Buddhist Circuit – to be included in the list.
- Konark Sun Temple: The grand Konark Sun Temple was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag in 1984. Despite efforts by the Archaeological Survey of India and heritage conservationists, the monument is today facing an existential crisis due to erosion. The pristine Chandrabhaga Beach near the Konark Temple is among India’s best beaches shortlisted for Blue Flag certification. It makes the destination the most exotic synthesis of contemporary luxury, traditional heritage and adventure tourism.
- Chilika Lake: India’s second largest Ramsar Wetland (designated in 1981), Chilika Lake is also Asia’s largest brackish water lake and globally amongst the most prominent wintering grounds for migratory birds. The megadiverse wetland is also home to among the last surviving endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins
• Bhitarkanika National Park: One of the largest Mangrove ECO-Systems in India, this National Park once held the Guinness World Record for housing the world’s largest crocodile (at 23 feet). It was designated as a Ramsar site in 2002. It also houses the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, which is a world-renowned rookery for the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle.
- Simlipal National Park: Notified as a Biosphere Reserve in 1994, Simlipal National Park is not only a Tiger Reserve but also a part of Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve. It alone is home to 75% Tigers (including the rare melanistic tigers) and 25% elephants of Odisha. Four Nature Camps within the National Park, managed by the local community, have emerged as a model in sustainable eco-tourism.
- Diamond Triangle Buddhist Circuit: Ratnagiri-Lalitgiri-Udayagiri complex has the largest concentration of Buddhist remains in Odisha. The Chinese Traveller Hieun T’ sang is recorded to have seen more than one hundred Buddhist monasteries including several centres of learning during his visit to Kalinga in 7th century AD.
“While the people of Odisha welcome the inclusion of Mahendragiri Peak in Gajapati District, Odisha’s second highest peak after Deomali Hill, as one among 15 thematic destinations to be developed under the Swadesh Darshan scheme for the “Ramayana Circuit”, the omission of Odisha from the list of 17 Iconic Tourism Sites referred to in the Budget 2019-20 has come as a surprise to the State,” Naveen said.
“Union Finance Minister has announced in her Budget speech that 17 Iconic Tourism Sites will be developed into world class tourist destinations and to serve as a model for other tourism sites. The Iconic Tourism Sites would enhance the visitor experience, which would lead to an increase in visits of both domestic and international tourists at these destinations,” the CM added.