TITLAGARH (BALANGIR): Is Titlagarh heading towards desertification? Large tracts of dry lands, presence of thorny plants all over the town and hotter days and cooler nights are indicative of the process. The diurnal gap between minimum and maximum temperature has also been on the rise over the years leading to apprehensions of Titlagarh turning into an arid zone.
Titlagarh and extreme heat have always been synonymous with each other. This Western Odisha town had broken records in the past. On June 5, 2003, the town had recorded 50.1 degree Celsius, an all-time high for the State and the temperature hovered around 48-plus degree in several summers, raising serious concern over the ordeal of the people and water crisis.
Tuesday’s Nor’wester-induced shower in KBK districts including Balangir, Titlagarh and Nuapada had raised hopes of some relief from the scorching heat. There was not much respite though. The town recorded 42.5 degree Celsius on Thursday, three degrees less than the Capital City where mercury touched 45.3 degree.
The town, which shares similarities with Latur in Marathwada region of Maharashtra, has failed to draw the attention of the Centre despite recurring droughts. In Latur, people are supplied water only once a week, and through taps just once a month.
In the past, Titlagarh too faced a situation similar to the Marathwada region where water tankers were ferried in train.
Besides natural factors, rampant felling of trees has added to the rising heat. The bald Kumuda Hill right in the middle of the town is one factor for the rising temperature as it radiates heat and people living within 5 km radius of the hill feel the intensity.
Efforts to develop vegetation on the hill have failed miserably. A team from the Centre had surveyed the area and suggested taking up plantation. The project kicked off in 2005 with Central assistance of `1.83 crore and was estimated to cover an area of 10 km, including parts of Titlagarh and Muribahal range. Plantation was also taken up on 10 hectares of land. Different kinds of saplings were planted around the hills in Tulang, Tikarapada and Belpadar. It was also planned to top Kumuda Hill with soil for regenerating greenery. But the efforts seemed to have gone awry with no sign of greenery in the town.
A Forest department official, refusing to be identified, said regenerating canopy of greenery atop Kumuda Hill requires drilling on the contours and planting treated seeds after filling the pits with soil. For a permanent solution, certain kinds of trees such as Neem, Karanja, Chhatian, Simaruba, Bel and Ainla should be planted though it will take time to grow.
Convenor of Water Initiatives, Odisha, Ranjan Panda said Titlagarh’s heat can be attributed to large-scale deforestation and vast degradation of land. “The soil types in this ecological region have been found with low to medium organic matter and poor water retention capacity”. Vegetation cover is needed for keeping the soil protected and fertile, he added.
Sub-Collector Kailash Chandra Sahu said the Collector had reviewed the situation on Monday and it has been decided to undertake massive plantation drive in the sub-division and ensure that those survive and mature. Admitting water scarcity, he said all efforts are being made to supply water to the stressed areas, including Titlagarh Municipality.