BHUBANESWAR: The unclean Puri sea beach has been a bane for the tourists and pilgrims. Even as the district administration is expecting a footfall of 50 lakh during the Nabakalebara of the Trinity, there is no plan in place so far to spruce up the beach that will also witness a large congregation.
As per existing provision, a private organisation specialising in solid waste management, Jagruti, cleans the beach till Swargadwar twice a day using 80 sweepers and two beach cleaning machines. The Puri Municipality deploys sweepers to clean the beach stretch from Swargadwar to Hotel Prachi. On a given day, the beach gets a footfall of around 10,000 to 15,000.
Stakeholders in the tourism sector, though, fear the arrangement would not suffice during the 11-day festival beginning from Rath Yatra to Neeladri Bije, considering the number of people who will visit the beach.
Plastic, apparently, is the biggest pollutant and there is a blanket ban on use of polythene on the beach. Although the Rath Yatra is two months away, Puri Municipality has not yet taken a decision on removing the 700-odd vendors from the beach, who pollute it by selling gutka, food items and other products in polythene. The plastic waste is usually collected from the beach and dumped at Baliapanda without recycling.
As per reports of the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB), of the 80 tonnes of solid waste generated in Puri every day, plastic waste constitutes 40 per cent and a substantial chunk of it comes from the Puri beach.
Regional Officer of OSPCB, Puri, Hadibandhu Panigrahy said there would be five time rise in the quantity of plastic waste generated from Puri beach during the festival. “Pollution at the beach will rise beyond control if more sweepers are not roped in to collect plastic waste from the beach during the fete,” he cautioned.
Though the Government had asked Puri Municipality to chalk out plans for beach cleaning during the festival, it is yet to be done. While Chairperson of the civic body, Santilata Pradhan admitted no special measures have been planned yet, RK Dasmohapatra, president of Hotel Owners Association of Puri, said he has proposed the Government to increase the number of sweepers being deployed at the beach by both Jagruti and Puri Municipality. Dasmohapatra informed the hotels have been asked to set up sewerage tanks and stop discharging untreated sewage onto the beach.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Ashok Panda said additional arrangements would be made if required to keep the beach clean during the period.