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Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary’s Barabakhra Ecopark to boost tourism, benefit locals

The Barabakhra Ecopark offers visitors to Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Barabakhra pilgrimage facilities to picnic and enjoy their stay

The Hirakud Wildlife Division in Odisha in tandem with Bargarh District Administration have come up with an eco-park close to Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary. Christened as Barabakhra Ecopark, it was inaugurated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik recently.

Funded by Western Odisha Development Council, the park has been built at a cost of Rs.1.76 crore and has all the facilities to make visitors comfortable. Sharing details with India Narrative, Anshu Pragyan Das, Divisional Forest Officer, HWD said: “There are 10 picnic zones which will enable eco-friendly picnicking by 500 people at a given time. The residents of the adjoining villages will provide the visitors necessary objects and articles required like utensils, water, parking, etc while keeping the place clean and clearing the garbage. There is also a children’s park with all the necessary equipment and infrastructure for the kids to enjoy.”

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There is a children area with all types of equipment for the kids to enjoy

The area is thronged by people in large numbers who visit the place to enjoy wildlife, pray to Maa Samaleswari and Saptarshi and pay homage to legendary freedom fighter Veer Surendra Sai and his followers.

This resulted in mass picnicking creating excessive waste and plastic garbage inside the wildlife habitat while on the other hand there were no facilities available for the visitors. The Ecopark constructed in less than a year will take care of these issues.

The DFO stressed that the picnic area and restaurant facilities at the Ecopark will be looked after by the villagers from this year onwards. “This will help keep the sanctuary area free from litter, ensure there is no disturbance to the habitat and pollution caused due to mass picnicking inside the wildlife area. Besides, the local community will earn alternative livelihood which will further reduce their dependence on sanctuary and enhance their socio-economic status.”

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The comfortable restaurant inside the Ecopark

She added that this “transformation will support smooth management of DWS and religious sentiments of the community associated with Debrigarh.”

Apart from boasting of an array of wildlife, DWS has religious and historical significance. Thousands of pilgrims from different parts of Odisha and Chhattisgarh visit the Barabakhra pilgrimage site inside the reserve. Here Maa Samaleswari, who is considered as one of the most powerful deities in Western Odisha and Saptarshi are worshipped and priests conduct puja twice a day. Every month a special puja is also performed, attended by people in large numbers.

The region has a deep connection with India’s struggle for independence as Sai and his followers who fought the British from 1830 to 1860 used to take refuge at Barabakhra which has 12 ancient caves beneath multi-step cascading waterfalls. Here they prayed to Maa Samaleswari and Saptarshi. The caves provided them a safe place during the fight to rest and work out their plans.

Sai during this phase, built hill forts with stone and mud on top of Debrigarh hills which were constructed in and around the sanctuary and the Barapahada hill range.

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The Ecopark has a Surendra Sai Memorial which depicts the history of this legendary freedom fighter and his followers in 3D sculptures

There is a Surendra Sai Memorial in the Ecopark which depicts the story of the struggle of Sai and his men in 3D sculptures. “This will make the younger generation aware of India’s history and also inspire them,” the DFO observed.

“To ensure safety of people and make their visit a smooth one, the caves, waterfall and puja area inside the sanctuary have been cordoned by barricades,” Das informed India Narrative.

Also read: Odisha tribals keep up legendary freedom fighter’s tradition to save wildlife