Tidal inundation fear looms after 3 lakh trees felled for jinxed steel plant.
Bhubaneswar: Once an alluring lush green patch with luxuriant tree cover depicting an idyllic ambience, the 4000 acres acquired for the 12-million steel Posco steel project now looks like a war devastated land. The thick forest with standing mangrove and casuarina cover that once made it virtually a paradise for eco-lovers, now paints a very sad picture, sufficient enough to shock one’s heart to the core.
Government sources said as many as 3 lakh trees were pulled down as part of land acquisition exercise undertaken four years back for construction of the country’s largest foreign direct investment (FDI) project worth Rs 52,000 crore.
While 2.25 lakh of the felled trees came under forest-classified category, 75,000 were fruit-bearing species.
The authorities might not have erred in pulling down trees as the project was accorded stage-2 of forest diversion clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). But the compensatory afforestation programme on the periphery of the mega project to make up the greenery loss has failed to take off four years after the land acquisition exercise.The steel company had made a chest deposit of Rs 105 crore with the state government for the plantation activity. The Rajnagar Mangrove forest division and Odisha Forest Development Corporation (OFDC) had jointly shouldered the responsibility of the project-side plantation work with state-run Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) extending logistic support towards it.
However, things have come a cropper as hardly 200 acres of area have been taken up for plantation till now, while the forest department ought to have raised trees in at least 1200-acre patch.
Divisional forest officer (DFO), Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya, said the forest department has raised trees in little over 100 acres in Nadiakhai village as part of compensatory afforestation programme.
“We have selected other areas in the Mahanadi deltaic region to raise tree cover. The programme would be taken up shortly,” Mr Acharya told reporters on Tuesday.
Basudeb Behera, a local panchayat representative, said: “Posco has announced to quit the project. In the process, it has left the locals to withstand ecological hazards. With tree cover gone, the areas are now lying exposed to steady advancement of seawaters. The trees were acting as barrier against cyclonic storm.”