Kendrapara, Jan 9 (LocalWire) Large number of villagers of Manikunda under Marsaghai block in Kendrapara district are opposing the alleged illegal construction work being carried out by officials of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) across forest land covering an area of 16 acres in the village.
They alleged houses and other infrastructure are being constructed over the forest land without obtaining proper permission from the forest department and the village Panchayat.
“The illegal construction is posing a threat to the ecology of the area as the officials of RWSS had cut down several trees on the forest land illegally. Despite repeated complaints to the district administration, no action was taken against them so far,” alleged villager Sampad Swain.
On Wednesday, a large number of people gathered at the office of the district collector and demanded to stop the construction work with immediate effect.
Villager Pratap Chandra Mohant said RWSS officials, a few days back, chopped down several trees in the area, which damaged the local path of villagers.
“Officials of the RWSS are illegally raising structures over the forest land. Since there is zero tolerance policy against forest land encroachment, we will soon take legal action against them,” said Kendrapara forest range officer Adhir Behera.
The illegal construction activity for a drinking water project has been going on since last month in the protected forest area without necessary permissions, alleged villagers.
“Construction activities by the RWSS in a protected forest area has resulted in the loss of forest cover, damaged many trees, and reduced the number of bird species there,” said villager Alaya Samantray.
“The extent of violation of Forest Act is quite frightening and one could only imagine the phenomenal environmental and ecological damage caused to the area due to illegal constructions in our village,” said Samantray.
Till date, the gram sabhas of the area have not given their consent to the RWSS to build houses.
“The Forest Rights Act has not been implemented, deliberately unenforced and blatantly violated in this village,” said Samantray.
When contacted, Bibhuti Charana Panda, Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) of Kendrapara, said: “The district administration has assured us to give forest clearance for the project soon.”