SAMBALPUR: Fire has been raging in almost all the reserve forests, hill ranges and green patches in numerous hills dotting the region. The fire besides endangering biodiversity, has also hit hard the forest- dependent community which gets livelihood from it for six months in a year.
It has upset the entire economy of the communities with the dwellers refraining from venturing into the forest. Collection of non-timber forest produce (NTFP) normally begins in December when the tribals trudge into the forest to collect Amla, Harida and Bahada. This is followed by bush cutting undertaken by the Forest Department during January and February to enable growth of kendu leaves. The department employs tribals in the clearing process which adds to their family income.
Towards March-end they engage in collection of mahua flower. The flower is in demand for brewing country liquor. Along with mahua they also collect kendu and siali leaves and its fibre. While the Siali leaves are used for making leaf plates and cups, the fibre is used to make ropes.
Once it is over, they get engaged in collection of Sal seed which is used to extract oil for use in cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries followed by collection of Mahua fruit in June.
Their dependence on forest continues even in the monsoon months when they gather mushroom and bamboo shoots.
A collector like Raibari Majhi, who depends on Barapahar Forest Range and sells siali leaf plates to the traders and earns around
` 60 a day, has not ventured into the forest for nearly a fortnight fearing the fire.
Though the Forest Department claims that they are into fire-fighting measures, on the ground it has failed miserably due piecemeal approach to the problem.