Balasore, November 23 (LocalWire): The residents of Remuna led by a group of sawmill owners staged a demonstration here alleging that the stringent forest rules and guidelines were impacting people’s life.
The protesters highlighted that the existing policy and guidelines were causing an acute crisis of wooden logs and timbers and the locals were unable to repair and rebuild their houses damaged due to the recent cyclone Bulbul.
Similar complaints were also made by the locals from Baliapal, Bhograi and other parts of the district.
The locals were also demanding relaxation in the existing policy of the state government so that they can cut the fallen trees owned by them and sawmills can be set up in the area. There are no sawmills at present in these areas.
Sources, however, said that at least 100 sawmills were operating illegally in the district across all blocks and the authorities keep on raiding them from time to time.
It is also alleged that these illegal sawmills are running in connivance of department officials.
According to divisional forest officer Biswaraj Panda, there is certain criterion prescribed under the policy of the state government for setting up a sawmill.
He also informed that the district had only eight sawmills and they have been set up after obtaining licenses from the department.
“There are certain guidelines for setting up sawmills as per the government policy.
They are stringent to curb the menace of pilferage and smuggling of timbers,” he said adding that there are six authorised sawmills in Somnathpur in the industrial area, and two in Panapana under Khantapara area.
“Wherever we receive information about illegal sawmills we raid them and seize timbers, logs, and machinery.
During raids, we have seized property worth several crores,” Panda stated.
He further said, “The policy was framed in the year 2009-10 to bring sawmills under the cluster so that their activities can be monitored.
Those who applied during the period have received licenses after fulfilling the conditions.”
Panda stated that the policy permits setting up of sawmills only in two clusters—one each at Somnathpur and others at Panapana.
“I can’t go beyond the policy and give permission by flouting the guidelines.
If state government revises or relaxes the conditions then their cases can be considered,” he said.
As per the existing guideline, a resident needs to obtain permission from the department for cutting the fallen tree even if it is owned by the person.
As per the process, the permission can be granted only for self use after a joint verification by the local revenue inspector and the forest department official, Panda stated.