Malkangiri: Several unidentified members of a Van Surakhya Samiti cut down scores of trees near Chitrakonda town in Malkangiri district after they were refused permission for hunting wild animals Friday night.
Earlier in the day, over 500 people of different villages entered Chitrakonda forest division to hunt animals. The villagers hailed from Nilakamberu, RSC-8, Sileiput, Doraguda, Kamaraguda, Datunguda, Mantriput, RSC-1, Phulapadar and other villages under Chitrakonda division, sources said.
On being alerted, probationary IFS Yagnadutt Pati and assistant conservator of forest (ACF) Srikant Nayak rushed to the forest to gauge the situation. It was learnt that the villagers were on a poaching spree as part of their Chaiti festival celebration. However, both officials tried to dissuade them from poaching and told them that it is against the law of the land. Though some of them promised not to go ahead with the killing, a few others stayed back in the forest and stuck to their decision to hunt animals. Left with no option, the officers sent a mobile squad to prevent poaching in the forest.
Forest personnel led by ranger Nikhil Chandra Sarkar and forester Mrutyunjay Sethi eventually persuaded them to leave the jungle.
However, the next morning the villagers on their way back home cut down most of the trees along a stretch of eight km from Chitrakonda to a nearby dam. The stretch is being guarded by some forest protection committees and their members are suspected to be part of the hunting squad that entered the forest the previous night. The people who were debarred from animal killing have felled the trees in an act of revenge, forest officials claimed.
It may be noted that the government has included local villagers for the protection of forests and plantation of new saplings and their preservation. For this, several forest conservation committees, combined forest management committees and forest development organisations have been formed. In return, the members of such committees have been allowed to collect minor forest produce, 50 per cent ownership of forest lands and free use of bamboos. Besides, the people of SC/ST community and other forest dwellers have also been given pattas for the lands under their possession.
Despite all such facilities extended to the members of the committees, many of them are seen destroying the forest and killing the animals on regular basis by misusing the rights. It is high time the committee members use their rights in safeguarding the wildlife and environment, forest officials said. PNN