The Dhauli Peace Park project, planned to be a major tourist attraction for Buddhist pilgrims, is moving at a snail’s pace.
Though the much-hyped project has been in the pipeline for 10 years, some of major development works were started only in 2011. When Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik laid the foundation stone for the park on February 23, 2004, Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) and Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) were entrusted the work which was scheduled to be completed within three years.
As a part of the `6-crore park project, the Government had planned adequate parking lots, landscaping and development of pathways from Ashoka Pillar, lighting arrangements at foothills, a sculpture park, beautification of Parabuddhi pond, security provisions and construction of a crafts bazaar. Till now, only the crafts bazaar and sculpture park have been completed.
There is no interpretation centre to distribute printed materials on the monument and in the absence of maintenance, the Parabuddhi pond is full of weeds today.
“Defunct water kiosks near the Peace Pagoda are yet to be repaired and the crafts bazaar below has no proper parking space,” said Laxmidhar Routray, a tourist.
At night, there is no arrangement of lights and security guards have not been deployed yet. Though there was a proposal for deploying 12 security guards by the district administration to keep vigil on the 2-km Dhauli foothills, a final decision has not been taken.
According to official reports, the OTDC is now considering handing over security matters to the Dhauli Development Trust, a private body which also looks into upkeep of the monument. “Besides, we had procured boom barriers last year which could not be installed at the foothills till date because of lack of power supply,” said an engineer of the buildings division of OTDC.
Sources in the Corporation said all funds sanctioned so far have been exhausted for which no further work has been undertaken for the peace park project. “Another proposal for a Buddhist Circuit connecting all the Buddhist sites in Odisha was submitted to the Centre recently for approval which includes Dhauli. If approved, funds sanctioned under this project will be used for further development works at the peace pagoda,” said an official.