SRIKAKULAM: The forest cover in the district has traditionally been below par. Some four years ago the green cover of the district was 12.12 percent of the total geographical area of the district. However, the scheduled average green cover of the district, officials say, should be 33.33 percent of the land available. With the passage of time, the green cover, instead of increasing has depleted, experts allege. The land pattas being distributed among the tribals, in spite of the poor forest cover and the works related to laying of roads in the interior tribal villages have contributed to a further erosion of 1 to 2 percent of the existing green cover in the district, said an informed source.
“Considering the seriousness of the poor green cover in the district, which leads to drought and other calamities, including mananimal conflict, forest officials have begun to take measures to enhance the green cover, including the social forest area, in the district,” said Srikakulam social forest DFO Dhananajaya Rao. He also said, “The distribution of Pattas to the tribal farmers and laying of roads in the Agency areas have led to depletion of about one percent of the green cover in the forest area. In order to strike a balance in the environment, we have planted about one crore trees during 2015-16 and are planning to plant another two crore trees during 2018,” he said.
According to government sources, as the geographical constrains have made the forest cover limited to 12.12 percent of the land in the district, forest officials, with a view to enhance the green cover in the forest has taken up gap plantation and plantation of medicinal trees, in over about 100 hectares, said Ch Santi Swaroop, divisional forest officer, Srikakulam.
“Besides covering the gap in the forest, we also are making efforts to grow pulmyra, casuarina trees along the seacoast over a stretch of 193 kilometers in the district,” he said. The plantation work along the seashore did begin around a year ago and the work is continuing, a source said. For record, the forest cover in the district, at present, is to an extent of 70,747.18 hectares, which accounts for 12.12 percent of the total geographical area of 5,84,302.26 hectares in the district. As per available records, officials have distributed land pattas to as many as 15,450 tribal people so far under RoFR Act- 2006, with the given land measuring to an extent of 25750.18 acres. The distribution of pattas to tribal farmers and the works related to laying of roads in the interior tribal villages have led to further depletion of the forest cover, as has already been pointed out.
This depleting green cover, has often forced the wild animals stray into human habitats, sometimes in search of water and sometimes in search of food or of both, leading to a man-animal conflict. Incidents of deer straying into villages located nearby forests and getting killed by stray dogs are not rare. It’s not that the wild animals are the only victims in this man-animal conflict. People also die. As many as 12 persons have been killed by the elephants and five elephants have also been killed - including two by tribal men - since 2007 in various instances during this struggle for existence between man and animal. More than 20 spotted deer and a number of wild boars have been killed in various incidents away from the boundaries of the forests. A herd of 11 elephants came to the Srikakulam district forest region from the nearby Lakharia forests in Odisha, during 2007, said Srikakulam divisional forest officer. He also said that to drive the herd back to the Odisha forests an operation - christened operation Gaja - was conducted.
While two elephants of the herd were driven back to the Odisha forests, three died in various incidents. During the fight between man and elephant, people of Kumbidi Ichchpuaram on October 27, 2010 killed two elephants and buried those at the outskirts of the village. However, it came to light after few days, he said. The herd however, have destroyed crops standing in over 300 hectares and uprooted about eight thousand trees so far. Another herd from Odisha forests entered the Andhra region, six months ago. The forest officials had to take up another operation christened Operation Gajendra to drive the elephants away from the district. However while being driven out, this herd has killed two people, in this month itself, in addition to inflicting damage to crops.