Tribals of Pidadamaha village in Daringbadi block of Odisha’s Kandhamal district allege that Forest Department officials were trying to destroy the biodiversity of traditional community forest near their village through forcible commercial plantation without the consent of their gram sabha.
Ninety tribal families living at Pidadamaha continue to protect the community forest near their village. Forest produce, including fruit bearing trees, is the tribals’ source of livelihood. According to the village’s ‘Jungle Adhikar Committee’, in the recent past, officials from the Brahmanigaon Forest Range had reached their village to press them to support commercial plantation on the Pidadamaha community forest. The villagers allege that forest officials threatened to use police force if they did not comply.
Pidadamaha’s residents allege that the Forest Department has not taken permission of the local gram sabha. They said they had written to the concerned authorities in Kandhamal district about this, and also stated that commercial plantation would be of no use for them. According to them, the move will destroy the biodiversity of the forest near their village, affecting their livelihood.
Green Nobel Prize winner and environmental activist Prafulla Samantara has taken up the issue. Mr. Samantara has written to the Odisha Governor, urging his intervention in protecting the rights of poor tribals. Mr. Samantara said that, according to information he had received, forest officials had already cut down several trees in the area.
“Forceful commercial plantation without approval of local gram sabha is against the Forest Rights Act, 2006. It is an undemocratic, unconstitutional action in a scheduled area,” he said.