Day after clash, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik orders halt to tree felling for beer factory

Published on Nov 18, 2018 03:12 PM IST

A day after hundreds of villagers clashed with police, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday ordered immediate halt to cutting of trees in a forest in Dhenkanal district for a beer factory.

Naveen Patnaik directed the administration to immediately stop felling of hundreds of luxuriant sal trees in Jhinkargadi forest near Balarampur village in Odapada block.(AP/File Photo)
Naveen Patnaik directed the administration to immediately stop felling of hundreds of luxuriant sal trees in Jhinkargadi forest near Balarampur village in Odapada block.(AP/File Photo)
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar | By

A day after hundreds of villagers clashed with police, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday ordered immediate halt to cutting of trees in a forest in Dhenkanal district for a beer factory.

Patnaik directed the district administration to immediately stop felling of hundreds of luxuriant sal trees in Jhinkargadi forest near Balarampur village in Odapada block.

On Saturday, police had forcibly removed protesters, mostly women, who guarded the trees by wrapping their arms around, similar to the Chipko movement in the 1970s. Patnaik also directed the revenue divisional commissioner to investigate the matter.

Incidentally, Patnaik himself laid the foundation stone for the project through video conferencing on November 3. The construction work of the 102 crore beer factory by Kolkata-based P&A Bottlers with a bottling capacity of 2.5 lakh hectoliters/annum was scheduled to begin on November 8, but had to be stopped due to the protests.

Of the 12 acres of land leased out to the beer company, five acres have sal trees. “We have been taking care of this forest for four decades. It’s our fruit of labour. But we were thrashed and evacuated while protecting our trees. We will not be cowed down,” said Sushanta Dhala, who is leading the protest.

The forest has around 958 big trees of various species.

Social activist Prafulla Samantra said, “The villagers had moved the National Green Tribunal for a directive to the state government against felling of trees on forest land. While the tribunal was scheduled to hear the case on November 20, the district administration decided to fell the trees.”

BJP MLA Pradip Purohit asked whether bureaucrats and ministers allowed tree felling by keeping the CM in the dark. “What is the justification of a probe when already trees have been felled and cases registered against protesting women?” he asked.

Leader of the opposition Narasingha Mishra said as per law, trees cannot be cut without the Centre’s permission. “Trees were felled forcibly which is illegal and a criminal offence,” he said.

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