Dhenkanal Diary: Kutunia, A Sad Tale Of Human Savagery

Nestled in the luxuriant spread of deciduous forests of a branch of the Eastern Ghats, Dhenkanal does not really need any beauty-enhancing intervention to be more attractive to outsiders, but it needs to be on guard against the ugliness being introduced by reckless humans. The grand hills and lush greenery still stand as the centrepiece of the beautiful landscape, impressing tourists and casual visitors, but for many concerned locals, nature could be in the middle of a losing war against human activity in the region.

The damage caused by upgraded and expanded highways is visible to all. But thrive as it does on the potent excuses of infrastructure development and economic progress, there’s no scope for argument here. But surely not the entire range of destructive human activity – quarrying, tree felling, soil excavation etc – square with the idea of development. The town has suddenly woken up to the possibilities of great financial returns from land lying idle, though not entirely unproductive, for decades and the frenzy of real estate and construction activity testify to it. There’s raw material required to feed the frenzy. Laterite stone, soil for filling and material for woodwork have to be procured in massive quantities. And nature abounding in these resources has to bear the brunt.

The result can be disastrous. Take the hillock, locally known as Kutunia, flanking the town on one side, for instance. Once a picture-perfect hill, home to abundant fauna and flora, it presents a pathetic picture now. The soil at its foot has been so brutally hacked off that it no more resembles a hill; it could be any modern structure in progress. Man’s ravage is in clear sight as you pass by. The expanse of treeless nakedness and exposed roots at the base makes you sad. Obviously, JCBs have been furiously at work, behind the eyes of the authorities supposed to mind the forests and land. It’s hard to rule out the possibility of connivance. But we are not going into that yet.

Kutunia looks like a mushroom zoomed a zillion times, you tell a friend. He chuckles in reply. “Just imagine how it would look a decade from now. It would be a pillar. There would be some green at the top to remind the world that it was once a hill with a lush canopy.” The act of destruction, he adds, has gone too far too soon.

If this is the scene close to the district headquarters, what could be happening elsewhere? you wonder.

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