Sunday, February 22, 2015

Huma, Mahanadi's Important Eco-Religious Shrine neglected on Big Day!

Huma Temple, located on the bank of River Mahanadi at about 22 kilometer downstream of Sambalpur city, invites lakhs of visitors throughout the year for two reasons: 1. It is one of the most important Shiva Shrines in western Odisha, and 2. It is a sacred grove in Mahanadi basin as the Kudo (local name) fish finds a protection here.  

Being a Shiva Shrine, Mahashivaratri is the most important religious festival of the year for this temple.  On this occasion, a Mela (fair) for seven days is organized by the temple administration with help of the local Gram Panchayat and support of the District Administration in this small village.  

We made a visit to the Mela yesterday (Sunday, 22nd February 2015) to realize that at least 25 thousand people from nearby and far off places visited the Mela on Sundays and the Shivaratri Day.  Rest of the days, the foot fall of visitors would be somewhere between 10-12 thousand people.  

What shocked us was to see that the Mela had no proper arrangement to provide basic facilities such as drinking water and toilets for such huge number of visitors.  There were only a few temporary urinals set up, but most of them were not preferred by people.  The place has only 4 toilets, two for men and 2 for women.  Open defecation was seen at large.  

The Sambalpur district administration has banned packaged drinking water in small plastic pouches.  Many welcomed it but alleged that the administration did not do anything to make safe drinking water available.  Local tube wells are in bad shape and the few drinking water outlets opened by panchayat/temple administration/locals are serving water from either the local tube wells or the Mahanadi river.  No one was sure of the quality of the water.  Many visitors from the villages were found drinking water from the Mahanadi directly.  

The Sambalpur district administration did not also seem to take its learning from the jaundice epidemic it is fighting now.  There was no effort to ensure proper food quality of the several open air food and drink stalls.  

The Administration, as the locals complained, has also left the Huma Temple wanting for a white wash and any decoration.  Previous years, the temple would be colored for this Great Day/Week.  The temple looked old and dilapidated as several construction and renovation works are going on for years.  Locals complained, the works are being done without consulting local people and are taking much longer than usual time.  Many tourists have to face inconvenience due to waste and debris that have been dumped all around.  

What shocked us the most was when we saw the Kudo fishes had vanished from the sight because of the huge gathering.  There seemed no effort by the administration to ask people to refrain from feeding the fishes.  As a general practice, people who visit the temple throughout the year feed the fishes which flock the banks in thousands.  

This a best case of the governmental apathy not only towards tourism in western Odisha but also towards health of the Mahanadi River and its biodiversity.  

Ranjan Panda

Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance, New York)

Mob: +91-94370-50103

No comments:

Post a Comment