Kendrapara, Jan 7 (LocalWire) Lack of proper roads, accommodation and other infrastructure, coupled with cumbersome entry permission, seem to have adversely affected tourism in the Bhitarkanika National Park (BNP), as only 2401 foreign tourists visited India’s second largest mangrove forest in Kendrapara district within a decade.
As many as 36,792 Indian tourists and 288 foreign tourists visited Bhitarkanika in 2008-09 financial year.
In 2009-10, 47,178 Indian and 249 foreign tourists, in 2010- 11, 48,972 Indian and 300 foreign tourists, in 2011- 12, 39,295 Indian and 275 foreign tourists , in 2012-13, only 203 foreign and 46,714 Indian tourists , in 2013-14, only 226 foreign and 48,214 Indian tourists , in 2014-15, only 169 foreign and 55,427 Indian tourists , in 2015-16 , 74,307 Indian and 173 foreign tourists , in 2017- 18, 74,947 Indian and 211 foreign tourists visited Bhitarkanika.
From Apr 1 to Nov 1, 2018, 18, 415 Indian and only 92 foreign tourists visited Bhitarkanika said the district tourist officer Bijaya Kumar Mohanty.
The official date reveals only 2401 foreign and 5,74500 Indian tourists visited Bhitarkanika since 2008, which shows, the park is no more a favoured destination for foreign tourists.
The decline in the number of overseas tourists is linked to lack of initiative taken by the authorities. Cumbersome process of providing the entry permits to foreign tourists to visit Bhitarkanika is also one of the main reasons behind the non- arrival of more overseas guests to this park.
The divisional forest officer of the park at Rajnagar and the office of Superintendent of Police of Kendrapada are the only competent officials to provide permission for the entry of any overseas tourist in the park.
Earlier, foreign tourists managed to get entry pass from any forest officials after showing their passports and valid visas from all available entry points at Gupti, Khola, Jayanagar, Dangamal and Chandabali, said tour operator Mahendra Sahoo.
In the past, many overseas tourists used to visit the Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands of Gahiramatha beach, known as the world’s largest rookery of sea turtles to witness the mass-nesting of the reptiles .
“But, ten years back, officials of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) banned the entry of any tourist at the islands and declared the area as “No Entry Zone” on the grounds that the missile test range at Abdul Kalam Island is close to Nasi -1 and Nasi-2,” said Hemant Rout, an environmentalist and secretary of Gahiramatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society (GMTMCS), Kendrapara.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the park, Bimal Prasan Acharya said: “The registration of foreigners has been made mandatory as per the direction received from the bureau of immigration, ministry of home affairs. We are taking best possible efforts to ensure that registration of foreign tourists does not get inordinately delayed.”
“After the establishment of missile test range in Abdul Kalam iland ( previously known as Wheeler Island) near Gahiramatha , DRDO banned the entry of any tourists to the nesting ground of turtles,” he said.
Bhitarkanika is famous for dense mangrove forest. Its water bodies are the home of around 1700 crocodiles. It is also the abode for birds, spotted deer, snakes , water-monitors.
“But Bhitarkanika has failed to attract more overseas tourists, thanks to the slipshod attitudes of the authorities,” said Amarbara Biswal, vice-president of Kendrapara Citizen Forum.