Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: A day after Dhenkanal district administration's deforestation drive to pave way for a proposed beer factory at Balarampur was vehemently opposed, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today ordered immediate stoppage of tree cutting.

As per the notification issued by the Office of the Chief Minister (CMO), the Central Range Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) has also been asked to look into the matter.

The direction assumes significance owing to the agitation by local villagers who are opposing cutting down of trees as part of the land acquisition by district administration for the proposed beer factory.

Apart from revenue land, IDCO has allocated land for the proposed beer factory which is being set up by P Bottlers Private Limited. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the project via video-conferencing on November 3.

Tension had prevailed at Balarampur yesterday after police tried to forcibly evict villagers mostly women who were also seen guarding the trees by wrapping their arms around the trees.

Social activist Prafulla Samatra had also opposed the move of the Odisha government to cut down trees for the beer factory.

BJP legislature party leader had also accused Odisha government of maintaining double-standard as on one hand it was spending crores for planting trees along the banks of major rivers and on the other hundreds of trees were being cut in the State.

Commenting on the issue, former MP Baijayant Panda demanded an independent enquiry to find out at whose behest the forest land has been declared as wasteland.

It is pertinent to mention here that the villagers have moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in connection with the deforestation. Official sources said that NGT will conduct a hearing on the matter on November 20.