Thursday, February 9, 2023
Odisha (Orissa)


Environmental Degradation

Odisha (Orissa) is facing environmental degradation worse than any other states in the country. The root cause of the disaster is the large-scale deforestation over the past few decades.

Forests cover nearly 37 percent of the total area of the state. It is mainly divided into four:

1) Dense forest

2) Sparse dense forest

3) Tidal forest

4) Almost devoid of trees and fallow forest land.

Environmentally sound forest, help to maintain the ecological balance and hence, area coverage of dense forest has to be increased. The drastic reduction of forests is primarily due to unauthorised felling, forest fires, fast growing cattle population, unauthorised overgrazing, encroachment on forest land for sedentary peasant cultivation, shifting cultivation and above all population explosion. This has resulted in a reduction in rainfall, heavy increase in the frequency of floods and droughts. Top soil which is created by nature over thousands of years is eroded as a result of shower, filling up the artificial reservoirs and river beds downstream, reducing the rate of percolation. Consequently, wells, springs and other water bodies dry up.

 The huge cattle population does not allow under-growth to thrive. Seeds are spoiled and new germination takes place. Consequently, the shrubs are reduced to pastures. The population increase has also played its part in environmental degradation. The human, need tonnes of fuel wood for cooking and for factories. Hence, the firewood needs have to be met through social forestry. By 2001 AD, the position may be more gloomy as Odisha (Orissa) will need 13.903 million tonnes of firewood, 0.184 million tonnes of bamboo, 0.267million tonnes of wood and 34,366 million tonnes  of fodder and leaves for cattle. To meet these requirements the government needs to create extra forest land of 70,135 Overgrazing, overcutting and forest fires should be checked.

The tribal population practicing shifting cultivation on an extensive scale endangers direct loss of valuable forest cover. The study has projected that by 2001 AD the forest will be reduced to only 16,731 km2 accounting for only 10.74 percent of the total geographical area, if the present trend is unchecked. This is the core of the problem. To avoid this disastrous situation it is more prudent to provide protection to the denuded forests and allow them to regenerate. This will be less costly. The people should be involved in the afforestation programme. This massive deforestation has resulted in environmental degradation in an acute form, the results of which are felt on reservoirs, like the Hirakud and lakes like Chilka which are being silted up rapidly.

1. Hirakud

The silt deposits in the Hirakud is increasing year after year. The ORSAC states that if this situation continues unchecked, by 2065 AD,460.3 million acre feet of slit will be deposited in the reservoir which is about 70.2 percent of the dead storage capacity level. All this is the direct result of deforestation.

2. Chilka

The largest brackish water lake in India is facing environmental disaster. Due to the massive deforestation in the upper reaches of the Mahanadi and in the eastern Ghats, it is being silted up rapidly. Due to silting in the north-east and north-west sectors of the lake, the average depth of Chilka has been reduced. Apart from this, its 31 km long channel from Magarmukh to Arkhakud where it meets the Bay of Bengal has been choked up by innumerable islands of varied sizes in the channel by silt and sand-dunes from the Bay of Bengal. The choking of the mouth obstructs the outflow of water from the lake and also the inrush of tidal salt water. This has recited in a decrease in salinity of the water of Chilka.

 A large number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh who settled on the northern shore of the lake use fishing nets of fine mesh because of which prawn and other types of fish and crabs, are not growing and their number is fast declining. In fact, the fish catch has declined due to over harvesting. More than 158 fish species are facing extinction. Partial restriction of prawn catch during breeding time (Sep-Dec) is one of the solutions to the problem. Restriction of fishing inside the lake is another solution. Reduction in salinity is adversely affecting the aquatic life in the lake.

A large number of avifauna (birds) visit the lake during winter. But, now the number has declined. This may be due to the fact that they did not find any perching ground.  Weed lands are fast being silted up and being converted into marshes.

Several proposals have been mooted to save Chilka. These include desiltation of the bed. If this is implemented, the plankton which is a food source for fish and birds, will be affected which, in turn will adversely affect the fish and bird population. A massive afforestation programme needs to be carried out in the Eastern Ghats and the upper reaches of the Mahanadi to check silt inflow into the lake. Fourteen old mouths have been identified to flush out flood water from the lake during the south-west monsoon and to allow fresh tidal water from the Bay of Bengal. To keep the proposed artificial mouths open, spurs need to be constructed. Palur canal should not be deepened as it may carry monazite sand into Chilka, the effect of which on fauna has not been properly examined. 

3. Similipal

The Similipal Tiger Reserve Area has also suffered heavy deforestation due to shifting cultivation of the tribes who live inside the project area and also due to large scale unauthorised felling of trees in deep forests.


Large Hectares of forest land were lost and consequently has completely changed the environment of the region and ecosystem has been degraded. As a result, old districts of Koraput, Kalahandi and Bolangir of Odisha (Orissa) have become chronically drought prone.