Column: Restoring Odisha’s Lost Greenery

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha is among the top beneficiaries of Centre’s CAMPA fund meant for compensatory afforestation. It has received more than Rs.5000 crore on this account this year which is much more than the share of bigger states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

The fund, as evident from its nomenclature, is aimed at restoring lost greenery. Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar has also laid emphasis on augmentation of water reserves to improve the quality of forests being created through the fund. He is apparently keen to ensure that compensatory afforestation does not end up generating scrubland.

This is of particular importance for a state like Odisha where a lot of greenery is lost every year to mining and industrial activities. Natural disasters like cyclones further worsen the situation. With a sizeable chunk of the state’s existing forest wealth having deteriorated into scrubland it is imperative that the government ensures the creation of quality forests through endeavours supported by initiatives like CAMPA.

State forest and environment minister, Bikram Keshari Arukha, who had received the CAMPA fund sanction letter from Javadekar earlier this year had boasted about Odisha’s forest area increased by over 885 square kilometres in the last two years. But he did not mention whether these were forests with a thick canopy or undergrowth that could be described as forest only in a technical sense.

Odisha must put the CAMPA funds to best possible use as it has suffered a massive loss of greenery in cyclones in the last few years. Cyclone Fani that was almost as furious and destructive as the supercyclone of 1999 in terms of the damage it inflicted on cropland and forests left behind a trail of devastation even in protected sanctuaries.

While thousands of trees in the Chandaka sanctuary in the backyard of Bhubaneswar were uprooted by the gale Balukhand sanctuary in Puri district was one of the worst-hit by the cyclone. It lost 50 per cent of its tree cover. Massive destruction of greenery also took place along the Bhubaneswar-Puri highway and along the roads in many other areas of Puri, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Khurda.

As luck would have it wildlife was not affected as badly by the fury of cyclone Fani. The spotted deer of Balukhand sanctuary that had gone missing for some time in the wake of the gale returned soon after. There were no reports of any major casualty to fauna in any other sanctuary or forest of the state because of Fani.

But the loss of greenery remains a matter of concern and must be compensated through afforestation activities. This is all the more important because a large chunk of the state’s forest cover has even otherwise deteriorated because of increased human interference. The Chandaka-Dampara forest in the backyard of the state capital itself is a glaring example of the adverse impact if the human activity on the state’s green wealth. Sizeable patches of this once flourishing wildlife habitat have turned into a scrub forest. It is a victim of over-exploitation by the local communities. With many such examples existing in the state forest officials must ensure that CAMPA funds are used to restore Odisha’s lost green wealth.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)