The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has proposed a 21.5 sq km area abutting the Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary as Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ). As per the draft notification, Puri and Konark towns fall within the sensitive zone where a number of development activities is restricted.
The Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over 87 sq km and to its south lies the Bay of Bengal. In the draft notification, 500 metre from the landward side of the sanctuary has been proposed as the ESZ.
Thirty towns and villages including Puri and Konark fall within the proposed ESZ. As many as 10 activities like commercial mining, stone quarrying and crushing units, saw mills, industries causing air, water, soil and noise pollution, commercial use of firewood, establishment of new major hydel projects and, use and production of hazardous substances are prohibited.
Similarly, eco-tourism projects such as flying of hot-air balloons over the sanctuary area, construction of new hotels and resorts or expansion, discharge of effluents and new construction activities except for domestic needs of local residents will be prohibited. As many as 18 activities will be regulated while seven environment-friendly activities will be promoted.
The Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary is considered an important protected area for in-situ and ex-situ conservation of wildlife. Besides, a number of coastal tree species, such as the Golara portion of the protected area, supports mangrove vegetation.
However, it is the Blackbuck population among other wild animals such as spotted deer, hyena, jungle cat, jackal, fox and monitor lizard which the sanctuary is known for.
“The sanctuary is unique in its structure and must be protected because there is a strong pressure from construction activities such as hotels and resorts given its proximity to Puri, Konark and Bay of Bengal,” said a senior officer of the Forest and Environment Department.
As per the draft notification, forests, horticulture areas, parks and open spaces meant for recreational purposes in the ESZ cannot be used or converted into commercial or industrial-related activities unless recommended by a monitoring committee with prior approval from the State Government.
Similarly, tourism development will also be carried out as per a master plan. Once the ESZ is notified, the Odisha Government will have to prepare a Zonal Master Plan (ZMP) within two years.
Apart from Puri and Konark towns, villages which come under the ESZ are Balukhanda, Samanagara, Mohinipur, Beladal, Nakhisahi, Chhaitana, Bhimapur, Gaindola, Bhuan, Gadabanagar, Jakhara, Badagan, Bangar, Tarakor, Khalakata, Champahara, Kunja, Kurujang, Buidhiabar, Jamara, Godhanapada, Guhalapur, Abadan, Bada Raula, Singahrpal, Chhenua, Udaykani and Tandahar.ESZ Wildlife Eco Sensitive Zone