The Centre-sponsored rural tourism projects in the State are moving at a slow pace.
The Ministry of Tourism had started these projects in 2007 not only to promote rural tourism but also provide opportunities to rural populace to improve their socio-economic condition.
In Odisha, the ministry had identified eight villages where rural tourism projects were to be developed by the respective district administrations. These are Raghurajpur and Pipili in Puri, Khiching in Mayurbhanj, Barpali in Bargarh, Hirapur in Khurda, Padmanavpur in Ganjam, Deulajhari in Angul and Konark Natya Mandap.
The projects have two components __ infrastructure and training and skill development of artisans. The project envisaged construction of open air auditoriums, tourist amenities, craft demonstration and sale centres on the infrastructure front apart from training and skill development of artisans. However, after the recent evaluation by the ministry, it was found that except Raghurajpur, works in other villages are moving at a snail’s pace. It was also pointed out that lack of sightseeing options does not draw tourists to Raghurajpur even though all the components have been properly implemented. In the absence of tourist traffic, socio-economic condition of the villagers is not improving.
While construction of any kind is yet to start in Hirapur, Pipili and Barpali, the project has not been successful in Deulajhari and Padmanavpur and moderately successful at Khiching. At Deulajhari, the infrastructure components are partially completed, but absence of maintenance has resulted in the project being accorded average rating. At Khiching, construction works are in progress.
Another drawback is that some of the projects are still inaccessible with communication facilities yet to be developed. Hirapur is a case in point.
“The reason for most projects being categorised as unsuccessful or average is that the tourist flow to the project areas has been nil or very low,” said Ronjon Lahiri, Assistant Director-General, Ministry of Tourism.
He added that although an evaluation was done on the implementation of the projects two months back and a report sent to the Odisha Government for re-strategising these projects in terms of proximity to popular sightseeing destinations, no reply has come from the State Government yet.
“We have suggested to the State Government to drop the projects which are over five to six years old and come up with something else,” said Lahiri. There are even chances that the State Government might be asked to return the funds with interest, he added.
Officials of the OTDC, which has taken over works at Hirapur, Pipili and Barpali, said construction of 21 craft sale centres at Pipili is on. Tenders have been floated for works at Hirapur which will be taken up after monsoon. Similar is the case with Barpali.