Raisuan/Anandapur: The timber mafia has been on a damaging spree in various remote pockets in Keonjhar district with the forest department allegedly failing to act against the plunderers, a report said.
The Kusumita reserve forest has been on the target of the mafia that has been carting away valuable sal trees even in the broad daylight, it was alleged. Hundreds of sal trees have been felled by locals on the tacit instruction of the mafia, it was learnt.
The reserve forest has been losing its greenery every day. Some locals requesting anonymity said the people of Baradapal and neighbouring villages are chopping off huge sal trees and selling them to the timber mafia at throwaway prices.
They said that such illegal activities have been going on due to an unholy nexus between the mafia and some unscrupulous forest officials. The timber plunder has been taking place even though a forest beat house has been functioning in the area, the villagers said, the beat house remains closed most of the time.
Social activists and environmentalists demanded that the forest department and the administration take effective steps to rein in the timber smuggling.
Illegal timber trade has also been thriving in Anandapur and Ghasipura areas. Following an instruction from Anandapur divisional forest officer (DFO) Ajit Kumar Satpathy, some forest officials raided the house of Markand Moharana at Bhatakagua Saturday and seized 40 CFT of sal wood.
During raids in the past, the forest officials had arrested Raj Kishore Ojha (30) and Habuli Ojha (40) of Kesadurapal under Ghasipura police limits while the latter were cutting trees.