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Bulldozer looms over marine drive

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 4: The state government today decided to demolish all illegal constructions on the Puri-Konark Marine Drive following sharp criticism for failing to curb illegal and unauthorised construction along the seashore.

Housing and urban development secretary Injeti Srinivas admitted that illegal constructions had sprung up near the sea beach on the 30-km stretch from Puri to Konark.

Srinivas said: “The Puri-Konark Development Authority (PKDA) will shortly launch a drive to demolish these illegal structures.”

Sources said the PKDA had identified 385 illegal buildings built within 100 to 500 metres of the high tide line on the Puri-Konark Marine Drive. The buildings have come up across the beach line between 1997 and 2012 violating Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) norms. Though the authority had lodged cases against the violators, nearly 300 cases are still pending hearing in either local courts or with the PKDA for disposal.

The CRZ defines the “high tide line” of the sea and specifies the activities permitted and restricted in its vicinity. It mainly prohibits construction activities between 100 to 500 metres of the high tide line without required permission from the regulatory authorities.

Planning member of the PKDA Lingaraj Patnaik said lack of adequate employees had affected their work. “How can we enforce the law without necessary support from all the agencies? Steps will be taken to take care of this issue. Unless public awareness is generated, illegal construction cannot be stopped,” he said.

Urban development secretary Srinivas said he was aware of the problems and steps would be taken to expedite hearing of the cases. He also said posts lying vacant in the PKDA would shortly be filled up.

President of the Beach Protection Council of Odisha Jagannath Bastia alleged that the illegal and unauthorised constructions were increasing by the day because of the callousness of the PKDA. “The constructions have deviated from the approved building plan and violated provisions of the CRZ,” he said.

Presenting a memorandum to stop illegal construction, Bastia said that even at present, no less than 30 buildings were being illegally constructed with the tacit approval of PKDA officials.

In 2002, Orissa High Court had directed government agencies, including the PKDA, to ensure that building rules and norms of the coastal regulation zone were strictly enforced. The high court had observed: “It is a matter of serious regret that the authorities concerned and the state have not been diligent about protecting the environment and the coasts and in ensuring that the coastal regulation zone notification fully, scrupulously and without discrimination are to be enforced.”

Puri Hotel Association president Ramkrushna Dasmohapatra said the PKDA had not yet identified from which point the high tide line started. “Innocent and rightful hotel owners, who have buildings on the stretch, should not be punished,” he said.

Sudhansu Rath, a resident of Puri, rued that the mushrooming of illegal multi-storey hotels and apartments on the seashore had deprived residents of a clear view of the sea. “Ugly structures are playing havoc with the skyline of this town. The view of the sea is getting obstructed,” Rath said.