Can an 'eco-village' help the booming religious tourism in Orissa? CEPT University has come up with the 'eco-village model' and more such solutions for the Puri-Konark area in the comprehensive development project (CDP) which it submitted recently to the to Puri Konark Development Authority (PKDA).
CEPT had bagged the project for preparing the CDP of the Konark-Puri area that spans an area 377 kms in 2009. Post the submission, many of the proposals are now slated to be implemented by Orissa chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the development plan being readied for the area.
If implemented, the village model would be the first of its kind to be adopted by any state government to streamline tourism in the area.
"We have identified some villages in the Konark-Puri area that can adopt and implement the 'eco-village model '. This model will be democratic in nature as it will be highly community driven operated by people, with less intervention from the local authorities and increased community participation in tourism activities. The CDP has also earmarked areas for 'heritage precincts' that would be regulated and will help in keeping the heritage status of the region and keeping the cultural flavour of the region intact. If implemented it would increase the workforce participation from to 40 percent from the current rate of 35 to 36 per cent," said Shashwat Bandopadhyay, head of the Department in the Department of Environmental Planning, Faculty of Planning and Public Policy and project coordinator from CEPT.
Having several popular tourist destinations, Puri, Konark and Bhubaneshwar are known as the Golden triangle of eastern India and sees a high tourist activity. The state which has a booming religious tourism saw a tourist footfall of 50,56,964, with a large chunk of around 50 lakh made up by domestic tourists in 2009. These numbers surge considerably during festivities and during 'Rathyatra' at the famous Jagannath Puri temple at Puri.
The CDP aims to decentralise the tourism infrastructure,thereby getting the locals community involved, induce a higher sense of ownership in them in a way that they will directly benefit from the new tourism initiatives to be undertaken by the authorities.
Apart from focussing on improvement of basic amenities, the CDP seeks to enrich the quality of tourism in the area, hold tourists for longer duration in the area for longer and make pro-village models for development. According to Bandopadhyay, more than increasing the number of tourists, the thrust of the CDP would be to enrich the existing tourist experience.
"There is need to develop tourist management, requisite disaster preparedness, and develop road infrastructure. Having studied the tourist arrival trends we have discerned that at present most tourists either take a one and half day trip to a 3 day to a weeks trip to the area. We want to increase this to a week trip at the Konark-Puri area by creating infrastructure for their accommodation and hold them for longer spells in the area. This will contribute considerably to the economic development of the area, " Bandopadhyay added.