Unlike the beaches of Goa, and to a certain extent Kerala, the pristine beaches of the State are beset with sanitation and hygiene issues.
The tourism industry in coastal Odisha has been battling such issues for quite some time.
This, despite the fact that around 20 per cent of the total coastline of the country lies in Odisha and has a high potential for development of beach tourism.
Some of the beach-side resort owners and tour operators have been pleading with the local authorities and the beach development committees to regulate the beaches for tourism promotion, but progress has been very slow.
The State’s 480-km coastline includes beaches of Talshari, Chandipur, Dhamra, Paradip, Hukitola, Chandrabhaga, Astaranga, Gopalpur and Puri.
Cleanliness and maintenance of these beaches has been a major concern. Although the issue has time and again figured at high-level meetings of the Government, no adequate measures have been taken so far.
A pointer to this fact are beaches of Puri and Gopalpur. Though Puri earns the distinction of having the largest sprawling beach in the eastern region, its cleanliness is a major concern.
Notwithstanding a blanket ban, vendors and tourists continue to use polythene and gutka packets at Puri beach.
“This ban was never implemented properly in Puri beach. There are over 700 makeshift kiosks on the beach and almost all of them use polythene. We had suggested them to keep all the polythene gene r a t e d throughout the day in a large packet and dump it in the municipality dustbins at the end of the day. But this is not followed,” said R K Das Mohapatra, president of Hotel Association of Puri.
Similar is the case with Gopalpur beach. A major problem in this beach is that people use it as lavatory, which is quite a “put-off” for tourists.
“The traveller, both international and domestic, has become a lot more discerning, and such sights can adversely affect tour- ism,” says Benjamin Simon, president of State’s Travel Agents Association.
A few years ago, a joint team of experts from the United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation and the Centre had decided to prepare a report on integrated sustainable development of coastal tourism in Odisha.
The team had planned to prepare Vision 2022 draft plan, a long-term plan for the development of coastal tourism which would give a boost to tourism and economy. But any action in this regard is yet to come forth. The State Government, on its part, has proposed mechanised cleaning of beaches from this year on PPP mode.
“Tenders for mechanised cleaning of Puri, Konark and Gopalpur beaches for a period of 10 years were floated recently,” OTDC executive engineer J K Das said.
Tourism department Secretary Ashok Tripathy said for the time being while Rs 86 lakh has been submitted with the Puri Collector for beach cleaning, Rs 38 lakh has been provided to the Balasore administration.
“We are in talks with Ganjam administration for taking up beach cleaning works there,” he said.