Senior Odisha government officials review progress of SAMALEI program – Reuters

By Express press service

SAMBALPUR: A high-level state government team comprising Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra and 5T Secretary VK Pandian reviewed the progress of the Samaleswari Temple Area Management and Local Economy Initiatives (SAMALEI) program on Monday.

The team, which also included Public Works Secretary Vir Vikram Yadav and Chief Minister’s Special Secretary R Vineel Krishna, visited the Samaleswari Temple in the morning to take stock of the ongoing works. Later, a review meeting was held with officials from Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation (OBCC) which is executing the project. The team also held discussions with the Samaleswari temple board.

Currently, the district administration is acquiring land for the implementation of the project which provides for the beautification and development of the 16th century sanctuary. A number of government quarters in the area were demolished and many illegal encroachments were evicted. Negotiations with private property owners are ongoing.

An OBCC official said that once the administration completes the land acquisition process and demarcates the area on which the project will be implemented, the company will sign an agreement with the selected company and start the works.

The project, which will be implemented at a cost of around 250 crores, includes beautification of the temple, development of a heritage corridor, state-of-the-art facilities for pilgrims and better access to the shrine. The development of the Mahanadi river front is also part of the project.

During the day, the team visited Mahanadi River viewpoint and Durgapali area where people will be relocated for the implementation of SAMALEI program. The officials ordered the administration to ensure proper rehabilitation of the people affected by the project.

More than 200 families who have lived near the temple for decades, including residents of the century-old Ghunghutipara slum, will be affected by the project. These people opposed the sanctuary development project for fear of displacement and demanded a better rehabilitation program. Among others, Divisional Revenue Commissioner (North) Suresh Chandra Dalai, Northern Range IG Deepak Kumar, Sambalpur Collector Dibya Jyoti Parida and SP B Gangadhar accompanied the team.

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