BHUBANESWAR: After almost two decades, the Sun temple at Konark is finally free of encroachment. Besides, the 13th century monument - Odisha's only UNESCO world heritage site - will now get separate entry and exit points for smooth movement of tourists.
The handicrafts and souvenir shops within the prohibited zone of the monument have been evicted this week and shopkeepers under Hastasilpa Byabasai Mahasangha temporarily relocated to an alternative site at Mangala Mandir lane nearby.
As per records of the ASI, there were 126 vendors who had set up their makeshift shops within the prohibited zone 20 years back. However, the shops multiplied to over 300 till now in violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act (1958).
"Our earlier attempts to evict them were futile because of various reasons including cases filed by the vendors in the Orissa High Court. But with the State planning to develop Konark on the lines of Srimandir heritage project at Puri and Ekamra Kshetra heritage project at Bhubaneswar, we had requested it to evict and rehabilitate them at a separate location. The High Court had earlier directed the removal of shops but suggested that they be given a different location to carry out business," said ASI State chief Arun Malik.
The cleared area will now be used by ASI to develop pathways, landscaping and tourist amenities including drinking water facilities and lavatories this year. In subsequent phases, all the shops outside the Sun temple boundary will also be removed and shopkeepers rehabilitated to a facility being developed by the OBCC Ltd under Works department.
Malik further informed that two gates will be used for entry and exit of visitors. While they will enter the site through the interpretation centre route in the east, they will exit through the gate on the Nabagraha temple side and move towards the main road.
Currently, people enter and exit from the same route which leads to congestion during the tourism season. Besides, the facade illumination work at the monument will be completed this month