RAIPUR: The Chhattisgarh forest department was left astounded to learn that villagers from the neighbouring Odisha attempted to encroach an area of Tiger Reserve and resorted to tree felling for farming with an apparent intention to set up a habitat.
The state government constituted an inquiry team which visited the Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger reserve in Gariyaband district where there were reports of huge tree felling mainly in the buffer zone and later selling the land to the people from Odhisa.
Based on one such complaint by the local inhabitants of the area, the state forest minister Mohammed Akbar formed a 5-member team of forest officials that visited the area to investigate.
“We were surprised to find at least around 10 hectares (taken together from different locations) of densely forested land of Tiger Reserve that has been converted into a plain field by the people from Odisha by felling of trees for the agriculture purpose. There were some huts of non-permanent nature found at the locality but no human habitat. The felling of trees were mainly done for clearing the land. There is loss of timbre but not of land, which has been reclaimed now”, said Atul Shukla, principal chief conservation of forest (wild life).
The probe team walked for several kilometres of difficult undulating lands, crossed two rivers to assess the ground situation and the loss in the Reserve.
“Earlier 26 people who came from Odisha attempting to encroach and settle here were arrested and sent to jail. Strict action and preventive measures will be taken based on the findings of the probe team. Forest are meant to safeguard the wildlife and those found guilty will not be spared”, said Shukla.
Already the Chhattisgarh state lagged behind other states in effectively implementing the management framework for tiger conservation. The state’s performance on tiger conservation mission has been miserable as the big cat population has dwindled by 59% since 2014.