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Odisha to ban quarrying near heritage sites

Official fears harm to Buddhist heritage of the State

State government is set to ban quarrying of hillocks dotted around the famous Buddhist sites Lalitgiri, Udaygiri and Ratnagiri, known as ‘Diamond Triangle of Odisha Tourism’ in Jajpur district.
“Indiscriminate quarrying of hillocks around Lalitgiri, Udaygiri and Ratnagiri would prove detrimental
to our great Buddhist heritage. Quarrying operation should not be done for short term gains. These archaeologically important places have credible evidence about presence of remnants of rich Buddhist legacy,” said Arabind Padhee, State Tourism and Culture Secretary here on Saturday.
Mr. Padhee was addressing the second international conference on Buddhist Heritage of Odisha here.
“Further archaeological excavations could lead us to discovery of Buddhist relics. Those who are involved in quarrying hardly know importance of the heritage. If they are allowed to quarry, in no time these hillocks will be flattened,” he said.
The Tourism and Culture Secretary said, “we will prohibit quarrying of minor mineral in places which have credible evidence of historical vestiges.” In fact, Jajpur district administration has already moved ahead by preventing quarrying around these sites in small scale. According to various researches compiled by the State government, the hills and hillocks of the range for their geographical isolation from the surrounding plains were rightly chosen for the residence of the Buddhist monks during the four months of rainy season as attested by discovery of several Buddhist establishments in and around the range. Buddhism witnessed roaring prosperity in Birupa-Chitrotpola valley during the rule of Bhauma-karas as evidenced from the archaeological vestiges at Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri, Langudi and many other sites in neighbourhood at Vajragiri, Tarapur, Deuli, Kolangiri, Kayama and Radhanagar.
Literature
Mr. Padhee said the State government was trying to develop credible literature for promoting Buddhist sites of Odisha internationally, for which Buddhism and Buddhist Heritage Studies in Utkal University of Culture would be given a push.
According to S. K. Patnaik, Secretary of Odisha Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies, based on recent archaeological explorations and excavations, the State has more than 200 Buddhist sites compared to 200 in Uttar Pradesh and 140 in Andhra Pradesh. Number of Buddhist sites in Odisha would go up further.
The three-day conference on Buddhist Heritage of Odisha saw experts and Buddhist monks from the country and outside assembling at this rural pocket.
Addressing the conference, passionate Buddhist researcher and State Election Commissioner Ajit Kumar Tripathy suggested features like peculiar Buddhist fair should be added to this annual conference to draw more tourists.
Among others, D. N. Jena, Vice-Chancellor of Utkal University of Culture and A. K. Pattanayak, university’s former Vice-Chancellor spoke at the inaugural session.

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