Barren coastal districts (in Orissa) look askance at Environment Day

KENDRAPADA: As the world observes another Environment Day today, administrative and forest officials of Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur remain indifferent to the fast depleting green cover in the coastal districts.

No fresh plantation drives have been undertaken in the districts even as widening of 88-km-long Cuttack- Chandabali roads will cost Kendrapada district about 4,000 trees. “How can we strengthen infrastructure without cutting trees? We need to be practical. When the district is bursting at the seams, and widening the roads becomes inevitable, the trees will have to go. If we want something, we have to forgo a few things,” Kendrapada district collector P K Patnaik said instead. Polanga, Noliasahi, Dadhibabanpada, Bhuiapala, Mathasahipada, Sidhagumphapada, Balisahi, Nuagaon and other seaside villages under Earasama block of Jagatsinghpur district in the proposed steel plant site of Posco used to boast of thousands of mangroves, fruit bearing and casuarina trees that saved the lives of many villagers during the 1999 super cyclone. Once famous among tourists for its natural beauty, the region looks barren and wasted today.

Now when a person looks for a tree to rest for a while, all he finds is unending stretches of roads bereft of trees on either side. There was a time when trees found a pride of place in our villages. Today they have been replaced by the office of Posco and some machines in Noliasahi,” said Pramod Jena (64) of Noliasahi.

Ponds, trees and sand dunes have all been lost. Once known for its intriguing green beauty, these areas are now paying a heavy price for the steel plant of Posco, not only in financial terms but also in terms of environment degradation. The authority has already made an ecological blunder by hastily chopping off about 1.5 lakh trees and 1,400 betel vine farms in over 2,000 acre land in the villages in the proposed steel plant site. We are heading for an ecological disaster,” said Radhika Sahoo of Noliasahi.

With the green cover destroyed, people in these areas are facing a massive shortage of water. Wells have dried up. The rate of deforestation is alarming and urgent steps need to be taken to reverse the trend. There will be further disintegration of the local climate, deterioration of soil fertility and reduced food-crop production,” reiterated Ramesh Das, a retired teacher of Nuagaon.

“Trees are not antithetical to development. Yet, they are the first casualty whenever one talks of development and industrialization. Rapid development and expansion, widening of roads, etc., have taken a heavy toll of the green cover in both the districts,” said environmentalist and secretery of district unit of People for Animals, Sudhanshu Parida.

However, Manoj Kumar Mohapatra, divisional forest officer of Bhitarkanika national park said, “The forest department planted mangrove saplings covering 220 hectares in Kendrapada district within two years. The authority will also plant trees covering 1,800 hectares, including mangrove plants in over 1,200 hectares near the proposed Posco steel plant to compensate for the denudation of trees for the steel plant.”

[Source — Times of India]

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