Phailin: Trees felled, Posco villages fear worst

Ashis Senapati, TNN | Oct 12, 2013, 01.01 AM IST

Phailin: Trees felled, Posco villages fear worst
Sources said the cyclone was likely to reach within 400km of the Paradip coastline.
KENDRAPADA: While the country’s eastern seaboard braces for the cyclone Phailin, the people in Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha are particularly in dread. Reason: the government felled more than 1.7 lakh trees and betel vines that would have acted as natural barriers against strong winds to facilitate building of the Poscosteel plant.Villages at the mouth of the Jatadhari river around two km from the shore had an abundance of casuarina and cashew trees, apart from betel vines that were removed. Casuarinas are evergreen shrubs and trees that grow up to 35m tall, are highly tolerant of cyclones and often planted as windbreaks.

“The administration is responsible for the denuded green cover. We’re now spending sleepless nights with the cyclonic storm expected to hit our village on Saturday evening,” said Mahadev Swain of Noliasahi. Other villages in dread of the cyclone are Noliasahi, Polanga, and Gadakujang. The trees and foliage surrounding these villages were felled by the Odisha government for the Posco steel plant about two years ago.

With Phailin funneling in towards Odisha at a wind speed of around 200 kmph, memories of the 1999 super cyclone are back to haunt the people here. The surging tidal waves had then killed more than 10,000 people in nearby Kujang and Ersama blocks. With the government sounding the alert, hundreds of villagers from coastal pockets moved to safer places, including cyclone shelters, on Friday.

Sources said the cyclone was likely to reach within 400km of the Paradip coastline. “We had then protested against felling of the trees. But the administration paid no heed and felled 1.70 lakh trees and 2,500 betel vine farms over 2,700 acres at the project site. Now, we are left in the open to face nature’s fury,” sarpanch of Nuagaon gram panchayat Bhaskar Swain said.

“The thick casuarinas and other trees in this area protected us against cyclone, storm and tidal waves. There was not a single casualty at this village in 1999,” said Pabitra Swain of Nuagaon.

“With the green cover and sand dunes gone, the villagers could face the worst of tidal surge,” Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (an anti-Posco outfit) Sisir Mohapatra said


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