BALASORE: Timber smugglers are having a field day, robbing the Dagra beach of its green cover, thanks to the inaction of forest officials.
The thick casuarina forest is vanishing at an alarming rate due to open felling and smuggling of the trees.
The forest, spread over around 160 hectares, has huge number of casuarina trees that are about 10 years old.
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“Under a nexus between forest officials and timber mafia, trees are felled and smuggled openly. Instead of keeping a check on such activities, officials have turned a blind eye as they get hefty cuts from the timber mafia,” a villager alleged.
A decade ago, the Forest department had planted the trees as part of a coastal afforestation programme to check sea-erosion in the region. It was also aimed at developing the place as tourist destination by developing a green cover along the shoreline.
If the illegal practice continues unchecked, the beach would certainly turn into a desert soon. It will also affect the ecology significantly, the locals warned.
Laxman Kumar Behera, a local environment activist, said timber smugglers fill up sand on roots after felling trees to destroy evidence.
Despite several demands, the department is yet to install a signboard urging locals not to fell trees or support the timber mafia.
Massive awareness campaign on the importance of casuarina forest among the seaside villagers can check the practice, he opined.
Chandipur Forest Ranger Debendra Kumar Patra said he is looking into the matter and necessary steps would be taken to check the mafia activities at Dagra.