Couple transform barren land into forest
Nuapada: An elderly couple has been relentlessly working for 26 years to give Chaulmachi forest under the Sinapali forest range of the district a new life.
The forest had become barren due to large-scale illegal tree-felling by the timber mafia when Lalmani Harijan and his wife Gashen Harijan of Sunarisikua village came to its rescue and took steps to protect it.
For their dedicated work on forest protection, Lalmani was awarded the prestigious "Prakruti Bandhu" award in 2009. The award is conferred by the state forest and environment department every year to encourage individuals and institutions recognising their contribution towards protection of forest and environment.
A source said during early nineties Chaulmachi with a forest cover of 50 hectares near the couple's village was deep and dense.
Its rich forest wealth attracted timer mafia.
This followed large-scale tree-felling and soon the forest vanished and only the barren land remained.
This worried the couple who voluntarily came forward to take care of the forest guarding it from the anti-social elements since 1992.
Lalmani said it was very painful to see how the jungle wealth was looted in front of their own eyes.
"For the last 26 years we have been planting trees and guarding the jungle on our own. The result has been overwhelming. The forest cover increased considerably," Lalmnai said.
The couple also created awareness among the people by asking them not to cut the trees. Gashen said: "We asked the villagers not to cut trees. Over the years this forest has become our life. I guard one side of the jungle while my husband takes care of the other."
Local resident Parameswar Barik said it was not easy to spend your life protecting the forest when you are financially crippled. "They have set an example by taking up a noble task and doing it honestly," he said.
Forest range officer of Sinapali Murari Prasad Panda said the youth should draw inspiration from the elderly couple. "Despite having financial crisis the couple have shown their love for the forest. We have recruited Lalmani under the government's Ama Jungle Yojana to give him livelihood support," Panda said.