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Bar on tourists at Chandaka

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 27: A night stay at the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary on the city outskirts will not be possible anymore.

The forest department has decided to restrict the entry of tourists in certain pockets of the reserved forest to make the habitat a better place for animals.

With the entry of vehicles inside the protected areas causing disturbance to wildlife, places such as Godibari, Deras and Jhumka, located on the periphery of the jungle, will be open to tourists.

A senior official of the forest department said: “We have noticed that frequent entry of vehicles in the reserved forest is affecting the movement of wild animals. To stop this, we have also restricted entry of our patrolling vehicles in some areas. Therefore, entry of tourists in the core area and night halt will not be allowed. Tourists will only be allowed during day hours in the peripheral pockets.’’

The department has decided to allow students in groups, nature lovers and daytime tourists in the fringe areas of the forest, but the officials want to put a cap on the number of visitors to the sanctuary.

Divisional forest officer (DFO) Manoj Mohapatra said: “While a group consisting of 40 people will be allowed in Godibari, 20 will be allowed in Deras and 50 to 100 will be allowed in Jhumka in a day. This will ensure a cleaner environment and there will be less noise pollution.’’

The forest officials have also decided to encourage students to visit these areas so that they can go back and spread the message among a larger section of the society.

The officials hope that the interpretation centre, nature trail and medicinal plant garden near Godibari entrance of the sanctuary will be a major attraction.

While Godibari is the main attraction near the entrance, other places such as Deras and Jhumka are also popular. However, picnickers are only allowed near Jhumka and there is facility to provide water, utensils and rooms for use against nominal payment.

At present, Chandaka authorities are planning to develop a 50-hectare eco-tourism complex near Dampara, which is also in the fringe area.

The master plan for the complex is under process and it will be developed for Rs 5 crore. There will be nature trail, facilities for water sports and boating, medicinal plant garden and cafeteria near the Dampara eco-tourism complex. Subhakanta Swain, a young engineer from the city, said: “The Chandaka sanctuary is the only green patch and protected area near the city. The stand taken by the authorities should be respected so that the protected animals feel safe.’’

Ecologist Prasad Dash said: “With elephants coming out of the reserved forests due to habitat loss, the restriction of visitors inside Chandaka sanctuary will definitely help the jumbos. Elephants constitute the prime protected species in Chandaka.’’