Wanton cutting of trees in Orissa

Everyone knows how precious trees are for the mankind, especially at the present juncture when natural disasters due to ecological imbalances are causing havoc in different parts of the world.

However, in Orissa, trees seem to have become the biggest enemies of both the government agencies and the common people. While there are several instances of government bodies promptly cutting down trees in the name of development activities like widening of roads or construction of a bridge, common man is destroying greenery even for unnecessary purposes like road blockades.

Recently, local residents were seen cutting trees to block the roads in Nayagarh district over a road mishap.

According to estimates, the state witnessed more than 2,000 road blockades in different districts last year. And in a majority of these cases poor trees were at the receiving end. This, however, did not include the communal riots in Kandhamal where thousands of trees were uprooted. This year, the number of road blockades has already crossed the 1,000 mark by June end.

Environmentalists have already expressed concern over the large-scale destruction of trees in Kandhamal, which is known for its salubrious climate. Daringibadi area of this backward district is considered as the Kashmir of Orissa.

Ironically, though about a 1,000 people have already been booked for rioting in Kandhamal, none have so far been arrested for destruction of trees.

Increasing Naxal activities in a majority of districts in the state — 17 out of 30 Orissa districts are now hit by the Maoists’ menace — have also inflicted a major blow to the state’s green cover as the Left wing ultras use trees as a major weapon against security forces to hamper their movement.

Hypocrisy
Naxals, who often love to describe themselves as the protectors of tribals and forests, cut more than one thousand trees within a span of one week to block roads and plant landmines to stop the security personnel from reaching them, during one of their recent operations in the tribal-dominated Koraput district.

The large-scale destruction of tree is already having an impact on Orissa’s overall ecology. Apart from problems relating to sea erosion in different coastal districts, the entire state had become a major hot spot in the country during this summer with the mercury crossing 45 degree Celsius at several places including capital Bhubaneswar even in the month of June. Never before the state’s weather was so hot in June.

Water scarcity, which was confined to only pockets of western and southern Orissa, has already emerged as a major problem in many other areas including Bhubaneswar. Water scarcity related violence had been witnessed at several places in the state this summer.

Worried over the situation, following repeated warnings from different national and international agencies including the World Bank, the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government has announced a massive tree plantation drive in different parts of the state. It has a target of planting 25 lakh saplings in the state in the next one year.

Not only would the saplings take some years to grow into trees, there are also not many takers for the government’s grandiose plan. Environmentalists point out that several such plans and announcements made in the past had never seen the light of the day.

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