Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 18:
Odisha is heading towards turning into a desert as it ranks fifth among top five states facing land degradation and desertification next to Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir.
This grim situation has arisen due to ecological imbalance, population rise, forest cover depletion, excessive use of ground water, reckless use of water bodies and faulty land use among others, said Additional Chief Secretary, state Forest and Environment Department, Upendra Nath Behera on Wednesday on the sidelines of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.
A study reveals that Rajasthan tops the list of states facing land degradation and desertification with 2.3 crore hectare degraded land followed by Gujarat, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir with 1.3 crore hectare land having degraded. Besides, 50 lakh hectare land in Odisha, which amounts to 33 % land in the state, has been victim of water erosion.
Notably, an area which receives less than 10 inch rainfall annually gradually heads towards towards desertification. Ecological imbalance, deforestation and low forest cover contribute to this situation. Many trees have been felled across the state in the name of road expansion and infrastructure development. In Bhubaneswar, many century old Banyan and Peepal trees were chopped down last year to widen the roads.
No tree can replace Banyan and Peepal trees as they have enormous capacity to purify the air as compared to other trees. At one hand the government has launched “Gote Gaccha, Gote Jeevana” (One Tree, One Life), at the other hand it is indiscriminately cutting the old trees, an environmentalist said.
“The density of rainfall is decreasing with time. In view of this, we are giving emphasis on conservation of rain water and afforestation. In addition to this, a Climate Change cell is being set up at the Forest and Environment department. After successful implementation, future course of action would be decided in coordination with Centre and other organisations,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, JD Sharma said.
On the other hand, the state government has taken several measures for afforestation in the recent past to combat desertification. Last year, saplings were planted over an area of 1, 98, 891 hectare land. In addition to this, trees were planted along 4755 km roads. Besides, 5.5 crore saplings were distributed free of cost to people to encourage plantation of which 14.90 lakh saplings were planted in urban areas.
“While 12.4 crore trees were planted last year, 13.5 core trees will be planted this year,” announced state Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh on the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought as chief guest.
The state is receiving less rainfall and a result of which lakhs of hectares of land across the state is getting degraded. The state government as well as the citizens should take steps to compensate the loss caused due to natural and man-made reasons, Additional Chief Secretary, state Forest and Environment Department, Upendra Nath Behera said.
“The fast-changing environment has shaken the existence of mankind and we are heading towards disaster. If adequate measures are not taken then Odisha would become a desert,” Prof Gopal Krishna Panda, Geography department, Utkal University, said.