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Ananya Revanna | Updated on January 11, 2019

Tribal villages in Odisha’s Kendujhar district resist the indiscriminate felling of sal forests, their lifeline

Day and night, the men in many tribal villages inside the Harichandanpur-Telkoi reserve forest in Odisha’s Kendujhar district kept vigil, watching for any vehicles entering their area. Barely days ago, innumerable healthy sal trees — a vital source of livelihood in these villages — had been cut down by the forest department. The villagers were now determined to prevent the officials from carting away the timber. The region’s many tribes such as the Juang, Santhal, Bathudi and Paudi Bhuyan were incensed that the forest department, which is allowed to cut only ailing trees, had brought down many healthy ones too.

Kendujhar is one of the most backward districts in Odisha, and nearly one-third of it is forestland, according to a 2017 report. Classified as “particularly vulnerable”, many tribal groups live in these dense forests and subsist on forest produce. The women stitch the leaves of the sal tree into plates and bowls, which are taken to markets for sale; the leaves of the kendu tree are rolled into bidis; and the mahua and kusum trees find many uses ranging from medicinal to recreational — the mahua flower, for instance, is used to make an alcoholic drink.

Published on January 11, 2019

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