By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, November 18, 2021: The Odisha government has decided to set up three new eco-tourist spots in the state using a community-based management (CBM) approach to operate them.

This approach has been successful in generating income for tribal families, official sources said.

Chief Secretary S C Mohapatra, during a virtual meeting, asked the Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation to acquire non-forest plots near popular ecotourism centres, and develop them into tourism and hospitality units, they said.

The CBM has provided alternative and sustainable livelihood to many people who, otherwise, were dependent on forest. It has also empowered people and infused a sense of belonging towards the forest and wildlife among them, the chief secretary said at the meeting.

Proposals were approved for developing the new eco-spots with night-stay facilities near Deomali – the highest mountain peak of Odisha — in Koraput district, Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary in Kandhamal, and Nawana valley in Mayurbhanj district.

Mohapatra directed the forest department to release funds immediately for developing the spots and maintaining their pristine character with adequate sanitation measures, an official release said.

Additional Chief Secretary of the Forest Department Mona Sharma said eco-retreat activities usually invoked private investment in the sector.

Hospitality centres and hotels have already come up near Daringibadi and Konark. Some investors have also expressed interest in starting private ventures in areas like Deomali.

Wildlife Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Sashi Paul said 47 ecotourism destinations have been made operational across 18 districts of Odisha since the launch of the CBM model in 2016. It has enhanced the income of many tribal families in the districts, Paul stated.

Among the new spots that were developed this year are Nrusinghanath in Bargarh, Koraput pine forest and Patora dam in Nuapada.

The number of visitors to these eco-destinations has increased from 11,500 in 2016-17 to around 57,000 in 2020-21. Tourists from 18 countries have visited the eco-spots with night halts, the release said.

Revenue generated from ecotourism increased from Rs 1.57 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 8.32 crore in 2020-21, it noted.

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