A green lung in Bhubaneswar is stripped of trees for a water project

Sikharchandi not only harbours a rich floral diversity, it’s also a repository of wild germplasm that support many medicinal plants, says a scientific paper

Published - June 10, 2023 07:36 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Locals say that about 10 acres of forest have been cleared to lay a road for the project in Sikharchandi.

Locals say that about 10 acres of forest have been cleared to lay a road for the project in Sikharchandi. | Photo Credit: Satyasundar Barik

The hillocks of Sikharchandi, which acts as one of the green lungs for the ever-expanding city of Bhubaneswar, has been partially denuded for a water supply project for a northern suburb.

Residents of 15 villages in five panchayats have opposed the indiscriminate felling of trees in Sikharchandi, spread over 212.5 acres, claiming the forest and hillocks have religious significance for them.

“We have heard the government wants to leverage the height of Sikharchandi to come up with a water supply project for north Bhubaneswar. We have enough technology and fund for building water supply system in plain land. We need not destroy a natural hill and forest for the project,” Sachin Mohapatra, a resident of Darutheng village, and a lead campaigner against tree felling, said.

A scientific paper published by a group of researchers from the Department of Botany, Utkal University, and the Sri Jayadev College of Education and Technology, notes: “The investigations highlighted that Sikharchandi not only harbours a rich floral diversity, but also a repository of wild germplasm, thereby supporting many critically dependent medicinal plants. It was also observed that being a natural sacred site it is maintained through traditional methods of community-based conservation without governmental involvement.”

The partially denuded hillocks of Sikharchandi in Bhubaneswar.

The partially denuded hillocks of Sikharchandi in Bhubaneswar. | Photo Credit: Satyasundar Barik

Locals believe that one of the two sacred hillocks at Sikharchandi is the abode of the deity that gives the place its name, and the other is home to Hanuman.

“About 10 acres of forest have been razed to the ground to create a wide road for the project. Heavy machineries have been clandestinely used to break the rock surface,” Mr. Mohapatra he alleged.

Maa Sikharchandi Anchalika Surakshya Samiti (MSASS), which is spearheading agitation against the denudation of the area, in a letter addressed to Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson of National Green Tribunal, said: “Sikharchandi is part of the Eastern Ghat mountains, which is extremely rich in biodiversity with varied flora and fauna. Various rare species, including wild and medicinal plants are abundant in this hill area.”

“In the past few months, a wide range of construction activities, including rock blasting and landscaping are being carried out at Sikharchandi hills. A significant number of trees have been fallen during these construction activities, which have been carried out by Water Corporation of Odisha for a 30 million litres capacity water reserve tank. Unfortunately, no environment impact assessment had been carried out for the project,” Anjan Kumar Jena of the MSASS said.

Villagers pointed out that while the Odisha Government had announced it would redevelop the entire Sikharchandi area as a tourist destination for its flora and fauna with significant funds, another of its departments was busy striping off the green cover.

In the last week of March, a herd of elephants visited Sikharchandi forest and lingered there for quite some time. “Though now disconnected, Sikharchandi used to be integral part of the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary. Wild elephants were using it as an elephant corridor,” Mr. Mohapatra said.

‘Human induced changes’

“Incorporating these sites into conservation networks could enhance the effectiveness of the protected areas by covering a wider variety of habitats and by harnessing the support of local people. However, with the passage of time, considerable changes have taken place under various pressures which are mostly human induced. Pressures include fragmentation, area shrinkage and degradation, habitat alternation, pollution, alien species invasion, cattle grazing and overexploitation of plant resources,” researchers noted in the scientific paper.

“The documented medicinal plant resources of the area need immediate conservation in order to avoid their disappearance. Their cultivation and domestication should be encouraged to prevent the extinction of potentially valuable species,” it emphasised.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.