Odisha government has put nine lakh Sal trees into jeopardy as it has begun the auction of 10 green-filed mineral blocks in Keonjhar and Sundergarh district. Nine lakh Sal trees in Uchabali, Gandhalpada, and Kalimati areas of Guali panchayat under Joda block of Keonjhar now face the threat of being axed. Actually, the identified 10 mineral blocks comprise only 200-hectare of non-forest area. The rest 700 hectares spanning across both the districts constitute forest area.

Besides environment impact, chopping of trees has raised concern among locals who are hugely dependent on the forest and its produce for their livelihood.  To safeguard their forest,  locals are now gearing up for an agitation.

“The areas are full of sal trees and several people and animals are dependent on the forest. We are against the auction and urge both Centre and Odisha government to cancel the process,” Dagar Munda, Sarpanch of Guali Panchayat, told Odishatv.in.

“Existing mines have been transferred to new lessees from old ones as per the necessary environment clearances, guidelines of the Government of India. We have no proposal or news about it,” Keonjhar Collector, Ashish Thakare told the portal.

After the nod from Forest and Environment Ministry, on July 2, Odisha government held a high-level meeting to begin the auction process of 10 mineral blocks – six in Sundergarh and four in Keonjhar district.