The Giant Squirrel Haven: Protecting Biodiversity Of Odisha’s Barbara Is Essential

Barbara was proposed as a sanctuary around two decades ago in view of its rich bird life and giant squirrel population. It will be better off as a community conservation reserve so that locals can be encouraged, motivated and engaged to protect this beautiful patch of forest that will enable it to retain its bio-diversity and continue to be a naturalists’ delight for years to come! 

Protecting Biodiversity Of Odisha’s Barbara Forests Is Essential

Barbara forests of Khordha district lies north of Chilika Lake and about 5 kms away from Banapur, an ancient Buddhist heritage site. These forests were once famed for their tigers. Though many trees have been felled and stolen by smugglers, one can still see magnificent age old teak trees planted by the British in 1910 - 1930 after clearing the thick mixed Sal forests. However, these plantations could only be seen in valleys and foothills since teak does not grow well on slopes or rocky terrain. The slopes still contained the old natural forests of a variety of Sal associate species including sal, piasal, ficus, arjun, ashoka, kasi, etc. Some of the teak trees are nearly 80 feet in height and with 12 feet girth, making it a rare sight in Odisha. 

Overwhelmed by armed timber smuggler gangs from Nayagarh district villages, the government was forced to deploy the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in 1995 to guard the rich Barbara forests. The timber smugglers of Nayagarh and Daspalla had plundered these thick forests in the eighties due to rapid expansion of Bhubaneswar city that had created a roaring demand for good quality teak wood. The ill-equipped forest guards with a couple of outdated 12 bore DBBL guns were no match in the face of attacks by armed timber mafia.