Odisha’s Debrigarh Sanctuary freed from human settlement 

Prey base of the sanctuary healthy with a lone Royal Bengal Tiger roaming inside Debrigarh

June 29, 2023 03:47 pm | Updated 04:49 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Debrigarh Sanctuary. Photo: Special Arrangement

Debrigarh Sanctuary. Photo: Special Arrangement

Debrigarh, a wildlife sanctuary in Odisha’s Bargarh district, has been made completely free from any human settlement following one of the country’s largest ‘peaceful’ relocations of forest-dwellers.  

As many as 400 families have moved out their villages after a series of consultations. In a State where permanent human settlements are common even within wildlife sanctuaries, Debrigarh now stands out as an exception alongside Nalabana Bird Sanctuary in Chilika Lake.

The positive impact of this relocation was immediately evident when a tiger from the neighboring Chhattisgarh crossed over into Debrigarh which is spread over over 353.81 sq km area and there was visible drop in incidences of man-animal conflict.

Relocated villagers from Debrigarh Sanctuary now live in a temporary colony. Photo: Special Arrangement

Relocated villagers from Debrigarh Sanctuary now live in a temporary colony. Photo: Special Arrangement

“The relocation of villagers assumed significance as inhabitants did not have access to basic facilities such as electricity, healthcare and education. It was also a mandate to make critical wildlife sanctuaries inviolable. This is win-win situation for both,” said Anshu Pragyan Das, Divisional forest officer (DFO) Hirakud Wildlife Division (Debrigarh sanctuary’s administrative unit). No force was used for relocating villagers from the sanctuary.

During the construction of the Hirakud Dam in 1950s, many families of Rengali, Bhutuli, Kurumkel and Lambipali villages were stranded inside the sanctuary. Leave alone the basic facilities, they used to get disconnected during monsoon when streams flowing through the sanctuary were swelling.

Convincing people to leave their forefathers’ villages was not easy. Ever since beginning of relocation process from August 2021 by Hirakud Wildlife Division, villagers were constantly sensitised. In fact, 280 meeting were organised to make people aware of advantage of relocations and benefit of their future generations.

Even groups of villagers were taken on exposure visits to relocated villages in Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts.

Each individual eligible family was paid ₹15 lakh compensation. In order to ensure that people do not resort to wasteful expenditure, ₹12 to 14 lakh had been kept as fixed deposits. All 400 families have been provided temporary shelter where they could easily stay for three to four years.

Peripheral development like strengthening of basic hospital facility, solar street lights, strengthening of community house and Anganwadi has also been carried out.

“We have identified 65 acres of land at Chakramal village and seven acres in Tangerpali (outside Debrigarh Sanctuary) for construction of permanent colonies which have been provided electricity, roads and drains,” said Ms. Das.

Mundakati village, which is situated on sanctuary border, would get revenue village status as two to three hectares area from sanctuary territory was likely to be adjusted with it.

A family of wild boars was crossing a forest road inside Debrigarh Sanctuary. Photo: Special Arrangement

A family of wild boars was crossing a forest road inside Debrigarh Sanctuary. Photo: Special Arrangement

As per the State Forest and Environment department, Debrigarh Sanctuary, which is proposed to be a tiger reserve, has high prey base (46 animals per sq. km). It boasts of having 82 leopards and one Royal Bengal Tiger, besides wild animals such as Bison, Leopard, Sambar, wild boar, spotted deer, wild dog, porcupine and Nilgai. The sanctuary is home to more than 40 species of mammals, 234 species of birds, 41 species of reptiles, 12 species of amphibians, 65 species of fishes and 85 species of butterflies

The sanctuary is flanked by Hirakud Reservoir which is a Ramsar Site and International Bird Area.

“The heartening news is that last year one Royal Bengal Tiger was sighted due to creation of more breeding space for herbivores - more open space for predation by carnivore. Around 500 ha land where earlier four villages used to exist inside sanctuary has been revived as grasslands,” she said..

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