The Forest department has woken up again to the problem of encroachment of Budharaja Reserve Forest (RF), the only green patch inside the town located here at the heart of Sambalpur town. Once spread over 113 acres, the Reserve Forest has reduced to 75 acres now.
The visit of the then Forest Conservator Rajeev Kumar in 2013 also failed to evoke any response.
The encroachment of the RF began in late seventies when few huts came up on the slope of RF. Gradually the slum named as Ramgarh grew while 7.17 acres of land was delineated from the RF for establishment of graveyard for Odia Baptist Christian community and to house the reservoir of Greater Sambalpur Drinking Water Project. This apart, 1.25 acres of land has been delineated for the Lord Shiva temple and another 2.5 acres for a concrete road to the hill top. Moreover, report submitted earlier by field staff of the Forest Department point to the encroachment by District Institute of Education and Training, office of the District Education Officer, office of Ground Water Testing Authority besides the Ramgarh slum and encroachment by the Christian community for the graveyard. In June 2013 the Town Ranger, S C Khuntia had said the department had made up its mind to clear the slum and free the RF. He had said that WESCO and PHED authorities will be asked to disconnect services as they were illegal with the land belonging to the Forest department.
But after failing to take any action for a year, the Divisional Forest Officer of Sambalpur Santosh Joshi said that a survey would be launched to ascertain the encroachment status. Presently, the thatched houses have been converted into houses with asbestos and RCC roof while some have constructed overhead water tanks on the roof of their house besides choking the natural water channels of the hill which pose danger to the ecosystem.