Op-Ed: A Welcome Gift From the Centre

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government must be grateful to the Centre for allocating more than rupees five thousand crore for afforestation and forest regeneration activities in the state over a period of ten years. The allocation, believed to be the highest compared to any other state, has been made by Centre’s Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

State forest and environment minister, Bikram Keshari Arukha, who received the sanction letter from his central counterpart, Prakash Javadekar, has been quoted by a section of the media as saying that Odisha is one of the leading states in the effective utilisation of CAMPA funds and the state’s forest area has increased by over 885 square kilometres in the last two years.

While increase in the state’s forest area is good news the sanctioning of CAMPA funds comes at a time when Odisha needs to invest in a big way both in afforestation and forest regeneration activities. The state suffered a massive loss of greenery in the recent cyclone which uprooted more than 10 million trees while damaging an equal number in different areas.

Cyclone Fani is estimated to have damaged at least two million trees in Bhubaneswar alone with the regenerated forest in Chandaka being severely affected. The Balukhand sanctuary in Puri district was one of the worst hit by the cyclone which uprooted around 50 percent of the trees in the reserve forest while damaging the crown of the remaining half. The sanctuary was home to around 90 lakh trees.

Massive destruction of greenery also took place along the Bhubaneswar-Puri highway and along the roads in Bramhagiri, Satapada, Krushnaprasad, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Khurda. This is not the first time that storms and cyclones have taken a toll of state’s green cover. Odisha had sustained massive losses also in 1999, 2013, 2014 and 2018.

Luckily wildlife was not affected much by the fury of Fani which was the worst cyclone to have hit the state since the super-cyclone of 1999. Around 4,000 deer in Balukhand sanctuary were found to be safe though they had gone missing for sometime in the wake of the gale. There have also been no reports of any major wildlife casualty from any other area of the state.

There is, however, no denying the urgent need to restore the lost greenery of the state. While recurrent cyclones and storms have been taking a toll on the green wealth increasing human activity within our forests and sanctuaries has also been the culprit. Take the case of Chandaka-Dampara forest in the backyard of the state capital. Once a flourishing wildlife habitat with excellent green cover patches of it has been reduced to a scrub forest because of human interference.

Even prominent wildlife sanctuaries have been victims of human interference. Though local communities residing around the forests have a natural right to the use of its basic resources for their daily needs this should not turn into overdependence. Besides there have been instances of people living around forests helping timber smugglers and poachers which can spell doom for these gifts of Nature. We should desist from such activities in our own interest.

(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.)