India — BHUBANESWAR: Large tracts of forests have been destroyed in a fire in Chandaka forest division in the past few days. And, there is nobody to extinguish the flames with non-gazetted forest officials on strike. Poaching and timber smuggling too are on the rise and afforestationprogrammes have taken a beating in the absence of forest staff since a fortnight.
“We have engaged daily-wage labourers and anti-poaching staff to guard the forests but being unskilled they have not been very successful in controlling the forest fire. Poachers and trespassers are also taking advantage of the absence of the ground staff,” said Phani Bhusan Nanda, a range officer in Chandaka forest division.
A few days ago, poachers had attacked a wild boar and a deer inside the forest and Dampada range officer arrested three persons with arms from the forest on Monday. The tigress and its cub reportedly seen in the Chandaka sanctuary was also spotted inside the forest a couple of days back, said villagers.
“We have planted hundreds of saplings in the forest three months back and maintained those. Now all saplings have got damaged with the rise in temperature. Besides, people are also cutting trees freely due to absence of guards,” said a striking forest guard.
As many as 8,000 forest officials, including foresters and forest guards and deputy range officers, are on strike since the last 15 days demanding salary as per the recommendations of Sixth Pay Commission and regularization of contractual employees as ordered by the Supreme Court.
“The state government will be responsible for the huge loss to plants and forest products due to the strike of forest staff. We had given it prior notice about our strike and will continue till our demands are fulfilled,” said general secretary of Odisha Non-Gazetted Forest Services Association Sameer Behera.