Bhubaneswar: The Union government’s decision to develop 17 “iconic tourism sites” in the country into world-class destinations has disappointed many here as none of the world-famous sites in the state has found a place in the list.
Sites of cultural and national heritage with significant global appeal abound in Odisha drawing millions of tourists every year.
The sun temple of Konark, a 13th Century architectural and sculptural marvel that keeps attracting foreign tourists, is among the 38 world heritage sites in the country identified by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The 10th Century temple of Lord Jagannath in Puri is another preeminent tourist destination in the state.
“The government is developing 17 iconic tourism sites into world-class tourist destinations to serve as a model for other tourism sites. The sites would enhance visitor experience which would lead to increased visits of both domestic and international tourists at these destinations,” said Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech on July 5.
The sites identified by the Ministry of Tourism include Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, Hampi in Karnataka, Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, Mahabodhi temple in Bihar, Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Qutub Minar in New Delhi, Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh, Amer Fort in Rajasthan, Somnath and Dholavira in Gujarat and Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra.
Since all of these selected sites are not UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the exclusion of Konark’s sun temple, a massive sandstone structure counted as one of the seven wonders of India, came as a rude shock to many in Odisha.
While other sites such as the Colva beach in Goa and Kaziranga National Park in Assam are among the 17 selected sites, similar sites of unique natural environment in Odisha were given a miss.
“It is disappointing. The selection process certainly raises questions. We will raise the issue with the Centre. Our MPs will raise it during the budget discussions in parliament,” said Minister for Tourism and Culture Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi.
The state, with its wealth of ancient sites of tourist importance, registered 1.5 crore tourist footfalls in 2018.