| File picture of high-rises coming up near Dhauli peace pagoda |
Bhubaneswar, Jan. 21: Land acquisition has become a major hurdle in the path of the ambitious Dhauli peace park project and its peripheral development.
The tourism department has taken possession of 40 acres needed for the project, but 13 acres are yet to be acquired.
The peace park project included 4.45 acres of forestland, but the land could not be allotted as the tourism department failed to demarcate the plots proposed to be diverted along with plot-wise counting of trees.
Sources in the forest department said the tourism department was required to submit necessary diversion of land proposed under the Forest Conservation Act, but the department had not done so.
As a result, the forest department is planning to develop the land by converting it into a natural retreat. Forest officials are also planning to carry out a massive plantation drive.
On the other hand, tourism officials said they had already deposited the money required for land acquisition. “The additional land is required to set up a picnic spot in the area with good amenities. We have already deposited the money for acquiring 13 acres of land,” said tourist officer of Bhubaneswar and secretary of Dhauli Development Committee, S.S Rath.
The proposal to acquire around 60 acres excluding the hill area is yet to make any significant progress. The 60 acres of private land will be acquired to ensure that no other construction work takes place around Dhauli.
“This will help in maintaining the sanctity of the peace pagoda as construction is rapidly taking place around the area,” said a senior official of Odisha Tourism Corporation Limited.
The ambitious tourism project, with an estimated cost of around Rs 6 crore, was aimed at making the historic hill more attractive. The project includes construction of two pathways, renovation of nearby water bodies, development of a parking area, lotus pond, meditation centre and amphitheatre.
Though the project has been on the cards for the past eight years, work began only in 2011. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone of the park on February 23, 2004, but the work has been moving at a snail’s pace.
“The shops built in the craft market have already been allotted. Within a few days the shops will be given electricity connection. Adequate parking space has been created in the area,” said Rath.