SUBJECT : New eco tourism hub planned

Bhubaneswar, March 22nd: Manchabandha, the rich virgin sal forest in Mayurbhanj district, will be soon be turned into an eco-tourism hub, with authorities planning to redevelop the site.

Divisional forest officer (Baripada) Sanjay Kumar Swain had sought permission from the wildlife wing of the forest department to develop the facility. The principal chief conservator of forest has released Rs 5 lakh for this purpose.

In 2010, the authorities took an initiative for the first time to make the site an eco-tourism hub but villagers opposed it, citing forest cover depletion. The department had already spent Rs 20 lakh. Facilities for the tourist stay will be created at the site in the 2016-17 financial year. "We have convinced the villagers and they have agreed to support us. Their involvement will mean they will reap the benefits as well," said Swain.

"In a month, around 2,000 tourists visit the area for sight-seeing although there is no staying facility. After the development, we expect a footfall of around 5,000 visitors a month. We are yet to decide tourist packages and other services to be offered," said the senior forest officer.

Manchabandha, four kilometre from Baripada town, plans a nature trail to facilitate tourist treks within the forest. Spread over 110 hectares, only a small patch will be opened up for tourism. There is a natural water body, which needs to be developed for creating boating facilities.

A wildlife officer said development of Manchabandha will help reduce the biotic pressure on the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), located adjacent to it. Baripada division comes under STR's buffer area. There are four eco-tourism sites in STR, five in Satkosia Tiger Reserve, one in Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary and two in Chandaka wildlife sanctuary, which witness impressive tourist footfall between November and June.

Source: Times of India