Mrunal Manmay Dash

If one thing the super hit movie 'Pushpa' made people aware of, it was the value of red sandalwood in the international market. While the valuable wood is a treasurable asset for many, Odisha government’s apathy has left the same red sandalwood on the brink of being valueless.

When Cyclone Titli ravaged the southern Odisha in October 2018, hundreds of red sandalwood trees in Gajapati district were either uprooted or damaged, forcing the forest department to cut them into same-sized logs.

However, as per the norms, the sandalwood logs should have been disposed of through an auction and the money should have been used for re-forestation in the region. But as the State government would have it, they took all the woods to the godown of Odisha Forest Development Corporation (OFDC) at Berhampur and dumped them there; some inside the godown and a lot in the open.

Interestingly, the corporation numbered all the sandalwood logs and put a security guard with a stick to guard the logs which have a reported market worth of Rs 400 crore.

The security guard at the gate said, “There are many sandalwood logs stocked here. They are stored both inside and outside of the godown.”

It is pertinent to mention here that red sandalwood has a very high demand in countries like China, Japan and Malaysia where it is used to manufacture medicines, cosmetics, home decor and musical instruments. However, the way the logs have been left in the open, the environmentalists have allayed the fear of depreciation in the medicinal properties.

Speaking to OTV, Environmentalist, Subash Rout said, “I am sure the sandalwoods at Berhampur have lost their medicinal values to a great extent. The government should at least now wake up from the slumber and auction those sandalwoods off so that whatever is left of those valuable woods can be redeemed.”

“They should begin compensatory plantation in the area devastated by cyclone Titli soon. As soon as they sell those sandalwoods, the money received can be used for the compensatory plantation,” Rout added.

Meanwhile, the Odisha PCCF and RCCF visited the OFDC godown in Berhampur on Wednesday to take stock of the situation. But they denied commenting anything on the depreciating red sandalwoods left in the open.

Berhampur DFO, Amlan Nayak said, “The OFDC has sanctioned a depot for storage of red sandalwood logs. A global tender for the logs will be floated soon.”

(Reported By Ashok Brahma, OTV)