Tribals have been on a hunting spree for the past few days. They use fire and sound to frighten animals, which troop out of their dens only to fall prey to revellers. Big and small trees have also been burnt down, a Forest department official said on Tuesday.

"The extent of damage will be known only after the festival comes to an end," the official said.

According to campaigners, the tradition of hunting during Chaitra Parva, a festival celebrated during Odia month of Chaitra, is assuming dangerous proportion. "Every year, crores of rupees are spent on planting trees. All efforts seem to be going waste," alleged Korput-based campaigner Sadhu Chatria.
"Managing such a vast forest area is not easy. The authorities should start interacting with tribal leaders and persuade them to protect the forests for their own survival," he said.

This is also done to take up shifting cultivation and collect Mahua flowers. "They light fire below Mahua trees to clear the grass so that flowers falling on the ground can be easily collected. But fire spreads to other parts of forest in the process," said Prafulla Padhi, an environmentalist.

Campaigners alleged that forest officers are slow in reacting to information on forest fire.

DFO (Jeypore forest division) B K Acharya said fire fighters are deployed at several places in the forest. "After sundown, they find it difficult to move in the area. Forest staff are also on the job," he said.

The tribals are being told not to lit fire in forest at village meetings and through wall paintings and leaflets distributed in weekly markets. "But we are yet to achieve the desired success," he added.

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