KENDRAPARA: Its tourist inflow already plunged by the unending Covid pandemic, Bhitarkanika National Park has suffered a double blow as the tourism infrastructure has been hit by cyclone Yaas.
Many guesthouses at Dangmal within the park stand damaged by uprooted trees during the cyclonic storm. Besides, walls of the crocodile breeding and rearing centre have caved in.
In 2018, six guesthouses, watch tower and rooms for forest staff were built at a cost of `1 crore near the sea at Habalikothi. Sources said the guesthouses are damaged by the tidal waves which entered the park during Yaas.
The seaside guesthouses at Habalikothi and Ekakula are sand-cast after the cyclone. A forest guard said tidal waves damaged the guesthouses at both these places.
“One of the guesthouses started shaking on May 26 night and we left for safer place,” he informed.
This isn’t the first time Bhitarkanika has borne the brunt of a cyclone. Amphan in 2020 and Fani in 2019 had inflicted damage on large areas of the park.
Three days after Yaas, the trail of devastation is visible on the roads leading to Bhitarkanika from Rajnagar to Dangmal. Hundreds of trees have gone missing from the stretch.
Pradip Das, a villager of Dangmal within the park, said the cyclone will severely affect tourism in Bhitarkanika. Residents of many villages within Bhitarkanika are staring at livelihood losses as the economy of the region is dependent on tourism.
Sand storms during the cyclone also damaged nearby agriculture land at Habalikothi, Kanhupur and Satabhaya.
“Sand storms in seaside areas are not uncommon but the damage this time around is unprecedented,” said Bijaya Mallick of Kanhupur.
Divisional forest officer of Bhitarkanika Bikash Ranjan Dash confirmed that hundreds of trees in the park have been uprooted in the cyclone and guesthouses also suffered damages.
“We are now assessing the damages caused by Yaas. Renovation works will start soon,” he added.