Facing a massive public outcry, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday directed an immediate halt to felling of trees to make way for a brewery in Dhenkanal district. The Chief Minister also ordered a probe by the Revenue Divisional Commissioner.
On Saturday, clashes broke out after the district administration, aided by armed police force personnel, cut down around 500 sal trees in Jhinkargadi forest, which has been protected by the villagers of Balarampur since 1972. The police also forcibly removed women who clung on to the trees to protect them from being felled. Lathi-wielding personnel chased away the villagers from the forest.
The villagers on Sunday resolved to continue their movement till the government dropped the plan to acquire the forestland for the Rs. 102 crore brewery project to be established by P&A Bottles. “The forest has been a critical source of our livelihood and other needs. We will not let anybody take away the precious trees,” said Sushanta Kumar Dhala, secretary, Balarampur Gramya Parichalana Parishad.
Social activist and Green Nobel winner Prafulla Samantra, who visited the area on Sunday, said the government should reassess its priorities.
“The government must clarify its position if it wants alcoholism to grow in rural Odisha or let villagers live in peace with nature,” he said.