Langaleswar: A thick cover of casuarina forests existed along coasts in Balasore district, but their cover has been shrinking every year due to wood smuggling and coastal erosion, a report said.
According to reports, casuarina forests near Kasaphala river mouth, Dubidubi river and Odisha Coast Canal under Sadar block are fast declining.
In most cases, locals have been chopping off trees to meet their firewood requirements.
“Local people are seen cutting casuarina trees from Rajdhani Chhak under Silang police limits to Panchupada bridge,” some conscious citizens lamented.
Spread over 100 hectares of land, casuarina forests and mangroves act as deterrent against the natural disasters and protect human settlements. The forests also block advancing movements of surging waves, they pointed out.
Locals alleged that the forest department is taking no steps for regeneration, protection and maintenance of these forests in coastal pockets.
The thick casuarina forest is vanishing at an alarming rate due to open felling and smuggling of the trees.
As part of a coastal afforestation programme, the forest department should check sea-erosion in the region. There is a need for developing a green cover along the shoreline, locals added.
If the illegal tree falling continues unchecked and forest department fails to protect forests, the beach would certainly turn into a desert soon. It will also affect the ecology, the locals warned.
“Instead of keeping a check on such activities, officials have turned a blind eye,” a villager alleged.
A massive awareness campaign on the importance of casuarina forest among the seaside villagers can check the practice, locals said.
“Lakhs of rupees are spent for creation of mangroves and casuarinas forests so as to check soil erosion and protection of riparian villages from natural disasters. These forests are vanishing here,” lamented former sarpanch Dillip Kumar Mohanty and locals like Bhude Sahu, Bishnu Binda and Jayanti Murmu.
DFO Biswaraj Panda said protection of forests is the responsibility of the forest department. “If some people are clearing trees, investigation will be conducted. Action will be taken,” he added.