| Garbage at Khandagiri. Pictures by Ashwinee Pati |
Bhubaneswar, Sept. 13: The historic Khandagiri caves, the famous Jain heritage site in the city, greets tourists with garbage dumps on both sides of its steps leading to the hilltop.
The national monument, which is conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), is a much sought-after destination for travellers from across the globe. But a visitor can almost be sure to be put off by the piles of used plastic, paper and food waste lying strewn on the rough hewn steps of the monument.
Parthasarathi Das, a resident of Satya Sai Enclave near Khandagiri, is not happy with the upkeep of the monument as solid waste strewn around the stone-cut steps remain an eyesore.
“The authorities should take note of the garbage dumps. Visitors coming from faraway places should return with a good impression of the place with them,’’ Das said.
Tour operator Debasish Mohapatra added: “The tourists should also be made aware of the fact that the place is a heritage site, so that the do not litter on the road here. The ASI and the civic authorities should place adequate number of dustbins on the path up to the hill and on the hilltop as well.”
Bhubaneswar tourist officer Sashanka Rath said more than six lakh domestic tourists and 4,000 foreign tourists visited the twin hills of Khandagiri and Udayagiri every year.
The twin hills — Khandagiri and Udayagiri — showcase rock-cut architecture dating back to 1st Century BC.
Historical evidence suggests that the rock cut caves came into existence during the reign of King Kharavela of Chedi dynasty and his successors, who were devout Jains. The hills were then known as Kumari and Kumara Parvat. The rock-cut architectural marvel was first spotted by archaeologist A. Stirling in 1825.
Bhuvan Bikram, superintending archaeologist of the Bhubaneswar circle of the ASI, told The Telegraph: “Public behaviour should change first. We are working with limited number of employees and a huge site such as Khandagiri also needs many staff for conservation. If the civic body can come forward to help us, we can ensure a cleaner environment.”
Another senior ASI official said that in 2006, the state government had directed the civic body to ensure cleanliness around all the protected monuments of the city.
“The state government should ask the civic authorities to take the lead in the matter,’’ he said.
Sarat Lenka, nodal officer of the Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, Bhubaneswar, said: “Our institute has taken up the Khandagiri-Udayagiri hills as a part of its Clean India Campaign. Our students keep cleaning the Khandagiri premises from time to time,. But the students could not take up any cleaning activity between May and August this year because of their other preoccupations. We plan to clean up the area before the celebrations begin for the World Tourism Day on September 27.”
An ASI official also said there was a plan to develop the areas around Khandagiri-Udayagiri once the road passing through the twin-hills was closed.
A proposal in this regard is pending with the state government.