Bhubaneswar, May 15
With a team of over 9,000 committed field and office staff, the Forest & Environment Department is committed to protect and conserve forest, wild life and environment of Odisha, said State Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray.
Briefing media persons after the department’s achievements were reviewed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here today, Routray said, there has been continuous increase of forest cover in the State — by 4.76 pc forest cover over the last six years. 885 sq. km. forest cover has increased between 2015 and 2017, as per Forest Survey of India Report, said the Minister. He said under the scheme for preservation of sacred groves, 2,161 identified sites have been preserved and developed at a total cost of Rs 24.71 crore over the period of five years. “Degraded forests have been restored with the involvement of 2,640 Vana Surakshya Samitis at a total investment of Rs 142.75 crore within three years under a new endeavour of the Forest Department named ‘Ama Jungle Yojana’, Routray said.
The Minister said starting from 2016-17, a scheme known as Eco-tourism is being implemented by providing livelihood support to 229 EDC/VSS members and developing 36 nature camp sites in 15 districts of the State. “A total of Rs. 4.97 crore were collected from the visit of 23,243 tourists during the last two years”, he informed.
Routray said as many as five villages — 2 villages consisting of 78 families, one of 79 families and 2 of 74 families have been relocated from Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Similipal Tiger Reserve and Hirakud Wildlife by the Forest Department in the last two years. The Minister said in last four years, a total of 13.40 lakh ha area has been afforested along with avenue plantation over 18,434 RKM with plantation of 1844.76 lakh seedlings. A total of 1,527.94 lakh seedlings have also been distributed during the last two years.
Routray said a new programme ‘Green Mahanadi Mission’ has been launched by the State government. “Plantation of 1,6500 ha area over 1 km width on both sides of river Mahanadi, Tel and lb is proposed to be taken up covering 1,303 villages falling under the jurisdiction of 19 divisions in 15 districts of the State through the massive participation of peoples’ representatives and all stake holders for maintaining perennial flow of these rivers”, he said. The Minister said as welfare measure, bonus of Rs 130 crore paid to 7.31 lakh kendu leaf pluckers, “Incentive of Rs 7.18 crore distributed to 18,035 Kendu leaf seasonal staff, Rs 7.25 crore incentive given to 23,250 kendu leaf binders and Rs 41 crore has been paid to 28,350 kendu leaf workers towards scholarship, daughter’s marriage assistance and death claims”, he informed, adding purchase price of kendu leaves has been increased by 25 pc (from 80 paise to Rs II- per Kerry of 20 kendu leaves during 2018).
The Minister said a ‘Standard Operating Procedure- SOP in Odia for Combating Forest Fire’ has been formulated. As many as 2,690 local youth are employed in fire squads, 1,248 fire blowers/extinguishers are used and incentives provided to Vana Surakhya Samitis. “Satellite data with exact GPS location of fire is transmitted to field staff as mobile alerts. 24 x 7 Fire Control room have been established for prevention and control of forest fire”, Routray said.