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Activists Uncover Rampant Logging In Similipal Tiger Reserve

Activists Uncover Rampant Logging In Similipal Tiger Reserve

The Wildlife Society of Orissa has obtained photographic evidence of the illegal smuggling of wood from the Similipal Tiger Reserve to nearby towns, and exposed a breakdown in law enforcement on the part of the forest authorities.

Photo Credit: Wildlife Society of Orissa.

Every day, mere meters from the Pithabata (WL) Range Office of Orissa’s Similipal Tiger Reserve, loaded bicycles ferry illegally-felled wood from the reserve to Baripada town. While conservationists in Odisha have been aware of the activities of the persistent timber mafia in the area for decades, they claim that the brazenness of the smuggling has reached new heights. Trees are cut and transported in broad daylight, under the very nose of forest authorities. That the smugglers carry out their work with no fear of the law implies the connivance of forest staff in the matter.

Exposing the tragic state of management in the reserve, Biswajit Mohanty of the Wildlife Society of Orissa released pictures of the wood-smuggling, and wrote to the Field Director of the tiger reserve demanding prompt action against the smugglers as well as the field staff in whose jurisdiction the smugglers operate.

Mohanty estimates that at least 10 tonnes of wood are extracted from the park every day, with at least 2.5 tonnes destined for Baripada (which happens to be the head quarters of the park) alone. One of the depots where the wood is deposited in Baripada is just 500 m. from the office of Similipal’s Divisional Forest Officer.

Photo Credit: Wildlife Society of Orissa.

In his letter to the Field Director, Mohanty questioned the grave lack of law enforcement, and wrote,“Stringent action can also be taken against the violators under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as the firewood is being sourced from a notified tiger reserve for which special penal provisions exist. We also wonder why FIRs are not being registered by the local beat guard about the loss of trees (government property) from inside the Sanctuary/RF!”

Mohanty also made no bones about the corruption within the forest department, stating “We have estimated that an amount of at least Rs. 50,000 every day or Rs. 15 lakhs per month of bribes is collected by corrupt field staff to allow this illicit timber/firewood smuggling in Baripada Forest Division. (@Rs.50 per cycle x 1,000 cycle loads every day in the Udala, Kaptipada, Dukura and Pithabata ranges).

Sanctuary readers are requested to take the initiative to write to India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and ask for a thorough investigation into the matter. The NTCA releases crores of rupees every year for the management of the tiger reserve and should now hold those who misuse these funds and allow the illegal felling accountable to their crimes. The Member Secretary of the NTCA, Bishan Bonal, can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Please also CC, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (Chief Wildlife Warden), This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (Principal Conservator of Forests) and This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to the email.

Author: Cara Tejpal.

 
 
 

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