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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Kendrapara, Nov 4:

Bhitakarkanika National Park would become the second destination in Odisha to be accorded the World Heritage Site status if it satisfies the nomination criteria under natural heritages laid by UNESCO.

A two-member technical evaluation team of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) appointed by the UNESCO today visited the Bhitarkanika National Park here to assess the ecosite from various aspects.

IUCN Regional Protected Areas Programme, Asia Dr Naomi Doak and World Heritage Conservation Officer Remco van Merm today visited the National Park for the on-ground assessment. The team would be studying the protection and conservation of the flora and fauna besides interacting with the local populace during their four-day visit.

Odisha government has presented graphic details of the National Park. We will visit the core area of the park and the water bodies besides the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary and Wheeler’s Island. The eco-system, bio-diversity, local human habitation and socio-economic condition of locals and their dependence on the forest produce will be assessed by us, the IUCN members said.

“The salt water crocodile population has increased rapidly here. In 1975, the population was between 90 and 95, now it has reached 1671. The bird population is unique to this place as around 7-8 varieties of birds arrive here for mass nesting,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife) Sidhanta Das said.

Last year, the state government had submitted a comprehensive bio-diversity dossier to the UNESCO recommending it to be declared a World Heritage Site.

Notably, India now has 35 sites, including 27 cultural properties, seven natural sites and one mixed site, notified as World Heritage Sites. Earlier in 1984, UNESCO had declared the Sun Temple at Konark as the first World Heritage Site in Odisha.