Patana: Timber mafia has been on a plundering spree in some remote pockets of Keonjhar with the forest department allegedly failing to keep a watch on the plunderers.
According to reports, Aratei reserve forest under Patana range has now been on the target of the mafia, who have chopped off over 500 valuable trees like sal, dhala, mahula, kusma and jamun trees.
The reports said, about 70 per cent of the trees taken away are sal trees. The trees were spread over five acres of forest land. However, who looted them is not known, even though there is a forest beat house two km away at Tanda near Pichhulabeda village.
It has raised concern of locals and social activists amid allegations that the reserve forest has been losing its valuable trees every day. They pointed out that how the forest department could get no clues about chopping of so many trees in the reserve forest
The matter came to light when some people were herding goats in the forest Thursday.
While locals are not aware of the men behind this illegal timber loot, Pratap Mahakud, a member of the villager forest protection committee, suspected that it might be the handiwork of some influential people. He demanded an investigation into the matter and punishment to the guilty.
Social activists and environmentalists demanded that the forest department and the administration take effective steps to rein in illegal timber smuggling.
Expressing concern over the declining of the forest cover, Rajendra Mahakud, a local youth said, ”Our livelihood solely depends on the reserve forest. We collect minor forest produce like sal leaves, mahua flowers, firewood, resin and tooth twigs.”
Those who are damaging the forest should be arrested, he demanded. DFO Ajit Tripathy said he can make a comment only after an investigation into it.