Bhubaneswar: As envisioned by Government, Eco-tourism has made success strides with opening of new livelihood opportunities in the respective local communities. This was known from a high-level review meeting held under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary Sri Suresh Chandra Mahapatra wherein PCCF Wildlife Sri Sashi Paul presented updates about operational eco-destinations along with the new proposals for discussions.
Considering tourist attracting potential of the proposals, Chief Secretary Sri Mahapatra approved 10 new spots for development of eco-retreats with night stay facilities, and 3 new spots for development as nature-camp for the day tourists. While approving the proposals, Chief Secretary gave strict directions for proper maintenance of the facilities already created and being created newly through close monitoring.
Concerned Divisional Forest Officers and supervising officers were asked to go inside each cottage and verify proper functioning of all facilities including the dining places, toilets etc. He also directed the department to involve local communities in hospitality and upkeep of the spots so that they earn their livelihood and preserve natural environs of the spots.
The new eco-retreats approved in the meeting included Deomali hilltop in Koraput, Jakam of Kalahandi, Nawana of Similipal north, Silviculture Garden of Phulbani, Muhana Muhana at Astaranga in Puri, Kotia in Koraout, Khadakhai dam in Rairangpur, Mahendragiri from Ganjam side in Berhampur, Kanjipani Ghat and Hadagarh dam in Keonjhar forest divisions. Similarly, new nature camps for the day tourists would be developed at Rani Duduma of Koraput, Dhaltangarh of Cuttack, and Bhandarpahar near Jhadeswari Temple of Nayagarh forest divisions.
PCCF Wildlife Sri Sashi Paul appraised that as of now 50 total eco-retreat destinations and nature camps are operating the State. With these 13 new approvals, the total number of spots would increase to 63. These spots are growing popular with increasing footfalls and revenue generation. Online booking facility has also been rolled out. So far, around Rs.95 cr have been invested in development of the eco-destinations.
Review showed a constant increase in number of footfalls at the eco-destinations. It increased almost by 142 percent in last 5 years. It increased from 11,500 in the year 2017-18 to 29,024 in the year 2018-19, and then to 57,000 in the year 2020-21. The year 2021-22 witnessed the surge in footfall to 70,216.
Concomitantly, the revenue generated from eco-tourism increased from Rs.3.40 cr in 2017-18 to Rs.8.32 cr in 2020-21 and then to Rs. 10.52 cr in 2021-22. Chief Secretary Sri Mahapatra said, “Conservation of forest and nature is turning a sustainable treasure for the community and promote that by all possible means”. He also advised to strengthen the intervention through formation of Eco-Tourism Society.
Additional Chief Secretary Forest, Environment and Climate Change Sri Satyabrata Sahu, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Sri Shashi Paul along with senior officers of concerned departments participated in the deliberations. Now, conservation of forest and nature is turning a sustainable treasure for the community.