Demand For Iconic Sites

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has urged the Centre to include at least two places in Odisha in the Centre’s list of iconic tourism sites as announced in the Union Budget.

In a letter to Union Minister of Culture Prahlad Singh Patel, Chief Minister said, however, the people of the State welcome the inclusion of Mahendragiri Peak in Gajapati District, Odisha's second highest peak after Deomali Hill, as one among fifteen thematic destinations to be developed under the Swadesh Darshan scheme for the "Ramayana Circuit."

But, he said, 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.

The tourism sector contributes about 13% to the State's GDP and needs a strategic boost, he asserted adding, keeping in view the importance of the tourism sector for the State of Odisha, it is requested that the Union Government may consider inclusion of at least two of the five tourist places of importance—Konark Sun Temple, Chilka Lake, Bhitarkania sanctuary, Simlipal National Park and Ratnagiri-Lalitgiri- Udaygiri Buddhist circuit-- in the list of Iconic Tourism Sites.

The Chief Minister wrote that the Union Finance Minister has announced in her Budget speech that the 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 visitor experience, which would lead to increase in visits of both domestic and international tourists at these destinations, he said.

“Odisha houses a mesmerising array of tourism sites, from ancient to modern, and from manmade marvels to nature's most captivating abodes,” he said.

The Chief Minister said 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 the contemporary luxury, traditional heritage and adventure tourism,” he said.

The Chilika Lake is India's second largest Ramsar Wetland designated in 1981 and is also Asia's largest brackish water lake and globally amongst the most prominent wintering grounds for migratory birds, Mr.Patnaik added.
“The mega diverse wetland is also home to among the last surviving endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins,” the Chief Minister said.                                                      
One of the largest Mangrove Eco-systems in India, Bhitarkanika 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,” he added.
Mr.Patnaik said notified as a Biosphere Reserve in 1994, the Simlipal National Park is not only a Tiger Reserve, but also a part of Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve.
It alone is home to 75 per cent tigers, including the rare melanistic tigers, and 25 per cent elephants of Odisha, he said adding, “Four Nature Camps within the National Park, managed by the local community, have emerged as a model in sustainable eco-tourism.”
Pleading for including the Diamond Triangle Buddhist Circuit, Mr.Patnaik said the 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, he said while urging the Centre to include it in the list.

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