Keonjhar: Members of four women self-help groups (SHGs), who have been protecting Balisahi village forest in Keonjhar Sadar range over years, are now a worried lot as people from outside their area have been damaging the jungle.
The SHG members lamented that depletion of the forest cover has emerged as a big threat to the wildlife living in the forest.
According to sources, the forest is spread over 15 hectares of land and is rich in precious trees like sal, mahua and other timber species.
“The forest provided a good habitat for a variety of wildlife like bears, monkeys, reptiles, apart from maintaining ecological balance in the area,” said the members of Maa Laxmi, Maa Mangala, Maa Subhadra and Maa Laxmi (B) SHGs.
Some people had sneaked into the forest Tuesday and were cutting trees. On being informed, members of the SHGs rushed to the forest but when they reached the spot, the timber smugglers had fled the scene.
“Some timber mafias have set their sight on the verdant forest. Gradually, trees are being cut away when we are away from the area,” they rued.
They alleged that some people of Baxibarigaon, Balabhadrapur, Kamalanali and others are involved in the timber smuggling, but the Forest department has failed to act against the timber mafia.
The women also alleged that whenever they confront the timber mafia, the latter threaten them or abuse them. They urged the divisional forest officer to take steps for protection of the forest.
When contacted, range officer Bidyadhar Sahu said the matter will be taken seriously and immediate measures will be taken for the protection of forest.