Deforestation deprives tribals of food security - The New Indian Express

Deforestation deprives tribals of food security

Published: 13th September 2013 10:36 AM

Last Updated: 13th September 2013 10:36 AM

Large scale felling of trees in Chhatardandi, Mahakhand and other forest areas that were once famous for high quality teak trees in the State has affected the food security of tribals and landless people who mostly depend on collection, processing and marketing of non-timber forest produce (NTFP).

Every day more than 1000 cycles loaded with wood come to the town from the forest. People also transport the wood in trains. Even as the Forest Department claims that Balangir district has 23 per cent of its total geographical area under forest cover, the satellite survey of 1989 puts the figure at 12 per cent. Going by the rate of deforestation, the figure may have come down to single digit.

Apart from agriculture, the forest has been an important source of livelihood for the poor particularly the tribal communities and women in the district. According to an estimate, more than 30 per cent of the population depend on forest for livelihood. The NTFP provides multiple benefits in terms of food, fibre, fodder and firewood. Fruits, flowers, roots, shoots and seeds are the main sources of food for the poor people.

Large scale deforestation, policy restrictions on free access to forest and increasing commercial exploitation of the forest products have resulted in non-availability of such products for them.

In earlier famines, the tribals and the marginalised section of the society were able to survive because of the availability of forest products. They depended on forests for revenue earning NTFP products varying from Mahua flower to Tol, Kusum, Char seed, wild Tulsi and Kendu leaves.

The major forest areas of Kiribanji, Chhatardandi, Harishankar, Khujen, Raju and Patharchepa have been degraded. Many areas of these forests appear as fields. The forest depletion has also created environmental and ecological problems in the area. The region, which had unending stretch of lush green forest less than 50 years before, has now converted into barren land mass.

Noted ecologist and economist Ghansiram Panda said, “Deforestation has several negative effects on the environment of the district including climate change and the worst impact is loss of habitat for hundreds of species.

As trees help in perpetuating the water cycle, failure of this process will turn the land into barren deserts.”

Talking about the steps taken to prevent cutting of trees, Balangir District Forest Officer (DFO) Abhiram Nayak said, “We are doing our best to conserve the forest involving locals and the Department concerned by promoting awareness on forest protection to maintain ecological balance and ensure food security of tribals and poor people.”

He further said the officials regularly visit the forest areas to take stock of the situation. Besides, disciplinary action has been initiated against two range officers and four supporting staff facing charge of dereliction of duty, he added.

From Around the Web