The Puri beach. Picture by Sarat Kumar Patra
Bhubaneswar, Sept. 13: Makeshift shops along Puri's Golden Beach, a 800m stretch considered to be a big tourist draw, would disappear shortly with the district administration all set to declare it as "no-vending zone" following an order of the National Green Tribunal.
The tribunal's August 2 order was discussed at a meeting chaired here by chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi last week. The government, rattled by the tribunal's criticism about non-compliance of its orders relating to beach protection, including mechanised burning facility at Swargadwar, has asked the Puri district administration to take immediate measures to ensure compliance.
The district administration will make a beginning by clearing beachside makeshift shops and barricading the area to prevent further encroachment. According to the plan, the stretch between Digabarini Square and Chaitanya Square on the Golden Beach will be declared as "no-vending zone". Puri district collector Aravind Agrawal said the administration had received the tribunal orders and the state government would start working on it shortly. "We will start evicting the vendors and put in place a strict enforcement mechanism to ensure that the encroachers don't return," said Agrawal.
At present, the 800m stretch houses more than 200 small and medium makeshift shops, including eateries and kiosks selling gift items.
Environmentalists welcomed the move but pleaded for proper rehabilitation of the vendors. "Clearing the beach-side is important for the protection of environment. This will also prevent coastal erosion, a big threat. But, the administration should ensure proper rehabilitation of the evictees," said environmentalist Sailabala Padhi.
The administration has also decided to ban trade festivals on the beach teeming with tourists at all times of the day. However, the government will make a small concession in this regard as it will allow events to promote tourism and culture to be organised with prior approval of the district administration with adequate safeguards to prevent beach pollution.
"We had a meeting to discuss the tribunal's orders and came up with a roadmap to implement it. The Puri municipality has been asked to install electric chimney at Swargadwar by the end of this year to check air pollution," said an official of the housing and urban development department.
The official said work on wastewater plant projects in Puri had also been reviewed at the top level.
"Bankimuhan is the place where untreated wastewater flows into the sea. So, a wastewater treatment plant has been planned there. There are other places near the Sterling Resort and Mangalahat in the city where treatment plants may also be set up," the official said.
The tribunal had, in another order in January, asked the state government to make rainwater harvesting system mandatory for all government buildings and the local municipality. The order had come in the backdrop of allegations of unregulated tapping of groundwater in Puri resulting in a sharp fall in the groundwater table.
Officials in the housing and urban development department said they were taking steps to comply with the tribunal orders. "After mechanised burning facility and wastewater plants, we will start introducing the rainwater harvesting system in the government buildings in the town," said an official.