Some women are using wet firewood to cook food as kerosene is too costly in open market

‘Firewood, firewood everywhere but not a twig to burn’ is the situation in most rural areas of Phailin cyclone as well as flood-hit rural areas of Ganjam district.

Firewood happened to be the major source of fuel for cooking in most rural areas of Ganjam district. Despite its devastating effect, the cyclone had provided a silver lining to the rural mass by providing great stock of firewood. Several trees were either uprooted or their branches had fallen. Although the Odisha Forest Development Corporation (OFDC) and the Forest Department have started making efforts to take possession of the fallen trees, in most cases the branches and twigs are left out for the localities. In Berhampur city also the people living in slums have gathered up branches of fallen trees, which in plenty to be used as firewood in future.

The collection of firewood has been heavy in rural areas. Several households have packed them up inside their houses and on the roofs if they had concrete roofs. Rashmi Nayak, a woman of Balia village near Purushottampur said she had hoped that the firewood collected and stored by her after the cyclone would solve her fuel problem for a few months. Similar was the hope of Damayanti Reddy of Nandanapalli village of Ganjam block.

But their hopes had been dampened by the rains that continued from October 22 to 26. All the collected firewood which was still not dry got totally drenched in rain. Due to firewood shortage, most people had to depend on kerosene stoves to cook as LPG is still a dream for the poor. It may be noted that kerosene is a sought after commodity in cyclone and rain ravaged Ganjam district.

Each family is being provided three litres of kerosene as relief material. Despite abundance of firewood after the cyclone, it was hard to use them for fuel even for community kitchens opened up at some villages like Chadeyapalli as it had become totally wet due to the rains.

With the sun showing its face since Monday, in all rural areas of Ganjam district, families are busy drying the firewood they had collected after the cyclone which had been drenched by the rains. Despite the smoke it is creating, some housewives are compelled to burn this wet firewood to cook their food. “I am compelled to burn the wet firewood collected by me as it is free and kerosene is too costly in open market now,” said Sunita, a mother who lives in a slum near Gate Bazaar of the city.