Patana: Forest officials arrested seven people on charge of felling sal trees in Aratei reserve forest under Patana range of Keonjhar Friday. The action of the forest department came a day after Orissa POST reported about the timber smuggling in the area.
“A case has been registered against seven people under various sections of Odisha Forest Protection Act 1972. The accused were produced in court Friday,” said Patana ranger Pabitrs Mohan Nayak.
Surprisingly, one of the arrested is the president of a village forest protection committee. The accused were identified as Pratap Mahakud (president of the committee), Kanderam Munda, Chhtaoray Munda, Laxman Munda, Makardhwaj Munda, Mana Munda and Tima Munda of Pichhulabeda of Dumuria panchayat.
For a long time, over 500 valuable timber like sal, dhala, mahula, kusma and jamun trees had been chopped off in the forest, but the department had no clues about it.
The matter came to light when some people were herding goats in the forest Thursday and found so many trees were missing.
About 70 per cent of the trees chopped off in the area are sal trees. The trees were spread over five acres of forest land, even though the forest beat house is two km away at Tanda near Pichhulabeda village.
Locals and social activists had demanded action against the guilty.
Even Pratap Mahakud, the president of the villager forest protection committee, himself had termed it as handiwork of some influential people and demanded an investigation into the matter and punishment to the guilty.
It may be noted here that the livelihood of locals depends on the reserve forest as they collect minor forest produce like sal leaves, mahua flowers, firewood, resin and tooth twigs.
DFO Ajit Tripathy had earlier hinted about an investigation into it. Villagers demanded action against the forest officials who have failed to monitor such illegal tree felling in the reserve forest.