Paralakhemundi Forest Division situated at the Southeastern part of Orissa, covers the entire area of Gajapati district, with portion of Berhampur and Bhanjanagar civil sub-division of Ganjam district. The tract lies between 18045 N to 19046 N latitude and 83047 E to 84055 E longitude. The total geographical area of the division is 4893.70 sq. km. 54.59% of the same being forest, spread over an area of 2671.74 sq. km. The headquarter of the division at Paralakhemundi, the district headquarters of Gajapati district. It has approaches from Berhampur (South East) and from Visakhapatnam (South) situated on N.H 5.
The division was created on 15.11.1965, by reorganizing the then forest divisions of Ganjam district. It is surrounded by Rayagada Forest Division on the West, Ghumsur (South) Forest Division on the East, Balliguda Forest Division on the North and Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh by the South.
There is no rail link passing through the tract except one narrow gauge line, which connects Naupada (Andhra Pradesh) to Gunupur of Rayagada district (Orissa). The nearest big railhead is Palasa (Andhra Pradesh) situated on Howrah Madras rail route of S.E.Railway and is at a distance of 40 KMs.
Configuration of the Grounds
The division, over most of the area is hilly and rugged, except the eastern narrow strip where the terrain is mostly plain and gently sloping. The hills of the western part is continuation of the great range of the Eastern ghats, chiefly forming two plateaus, featuring some of the highest mountains of Orissa. The elevation rises as one goes to south and southeast. The forests are mostly situated on the hills, varying from 300 meters to 1600 meters above height of the sea level. Some of the highest points are Mahendragiri (1504 meters), Singaraj (1515 meters) and Devagiri (1381 meters).
Shifting Cultivation is rampant and wide spread, practiced mainly by both the tribes, Soura tribe inhabiting the Southern plateau and Kondhas inhabiting the Northern plateau. This has resulted in forest fragmentation and habitat destruction on a massive scale. Age old practice of shifting cultivation is turning out to be non-sustainable due mainly to increase human number per unit forest area, resulting in additional forest area being eaten up, every year. The podu cycle has also reduced over the years.
The forests of Paralakhemundi division is broadly grouped under Tropical Deciduous Forests, with several types and sub types originating due to change in topography, soil, microclimate and biotic interferences. The forest is either high forest or podu re-growth origin. Sal is the principal species occurring in the valleys and in areas with netter soil cover, attaining a quality of III / IV.
On the higher slopes, on the drier ground and areas with poor solid cover, Sal is replaced by miscellaneous species. In Lakhari Valley, Dhaura occurs pure in patched. Again towards Mahendragiri hills, composition undergoes a change and species like Jamun, Ashoka, Rai appears confined to the plateaus. Salia bamboo occurs mixed with Sal and miscellaneous forests on direr hills, forming pure patches at places. Kanta bamboo is confined to moist areas only.
Coverage of area (Sq. KM) as per F.S.I estimate in Gajapati district
Shifting cultivation ravages the forests, excepting some patches in Samantiapalli Range and rocky hills of other ranges major areas affected by podu cultivation in the past have resulted in degradation of the crop, decrease in top canopy, spreading of scrub forest, increase in soil erosion and decrease in its fertility. This has resulted in occurrence of young sal and its associates extensively. In few blocks the forests have been exploited beyond silviculture and regenerative capacity resulting in scrub forest.
Ecologically, the forests are classified into the following types based on revised survey of forest types in India by champion and Seth (1968).
2BC3 Northern tropical semi evergreen forests (Orissa semi evergreen forests)
3C Northern Indian Moist deciduous forest
3C/2c 2e Moist peninsular Sal Forest, 3C/C2 e (i) Moist peninsular high-level Sal, 3C/2C 2e (ii) Moist peninsular low level Sal,
3c/2S1 Northern Secondary moist mixed deciduous forest &
3c/2S1 Dry bamboo brakes
5B Northern Tropical dry deciduous forest
5B c1 Dry Sal bearing forests
5B 2c Northern dry mixed deciduous forests
5B BDS I Dry deciduous scrub
5B E9 Dry Bamboo brake
Orissa semi evergreen forests (2BC3): This type of forest occurs over limited areas where elevation is 2 mor3e than 1500 meter above MSL. This is confined to moist valley of Mahendragiri hill ranges. The important species mate with is Amba, Markanda, Kendu, Rai, Nageswar, and Ashoka etc. Regeneration of important species is in adequate.
Moist peninsular high-level Sal (3C/C2 e): This sub type is met on high hills and plateau in Chandragiri, Guimera, Panigonda East, West, Maharajapeta, Vallada, Kurlanda, Parsamba, Narayanpur etc. The conditions are optimum for growth of Sal and in cases forms 90% of the crop. Quality of Sal varies between III IV. The trees are well formed and Sal tends to become pureat high elevation. The important associates of Sal are Bija, Sahaj, Halandu, Mundi, Kasi, Jamu, Asan etc. Salia bamboo of poor quality also occurs. Natural regeneration is adequate.
Moist peninsular low-level Sal (3C/2C e): This sub-type is found in the hill slopes and plain forest of Chandragiri, Guimera, Panigonda. Top canopy is almost of pure Sal varying from quality III to IV. Regeneration of Sal is profuse. Asan, Bija, Halanda, Mundi, Sissoo, Jamu, Char, Karada are common associates. Occurance of Salia bamboo is comparatively more frequent, but in damper localities, it is replaced by Kanta bamboo.
Northern Secondary moist mixed deciduous forest (3c/2 S1): Considerable areas of Paralakhemundi Forest Division where the soil cover is poor and dry has resulted in this type of forests on hill slopes. Conditions are not suitable for the growth and establishment of Sal. The common species found are Dhoura, Mohula, Bija, Haldu, Sidha etc. The original forest has been destroyed at some point of time by shifting cultivation resulting in this type of forest. Siali and Atundi are the main climbers. Natural regeneration of important species is wanting.
Dry bamboo Brakes (Edaphic and Seral Type (3c/2S1): Dominant by only one species of Lalia bamboo, this type of forest is met with in parts of Guluba, Damadua etc. Salia bamboo forms dense patches with or without sprinkling of trees. Some areas of Singaraj, Guimera, Nallaghat also has this type of forests. The ground floor is cleanwith average number of bamboo clumps per Ha. Coming upto 1500 clumps at places.
Dry Sal bearing Forest (5B-C1): This type of forest is met with in areas having shallow soil where quality of Sal is poor. Dry miscellaneous species are common associates. Canopy is less open. Regeneration of Sal is deficient. Mostly seen in and around Maharajapeta, Sialiloti forest blocks .
Northern Dry mixed Deciduous Forest (5B-C2): This occurs aroundhigher slopes, mostly along southern aspect, where soil is dry and shallow. Condition doesnt favour growth of Sal. This type tends to be moist in Western part and becomes dry towards East. It is seen around Devagiri, Bhubuni, Kumulisingi, Narayanpur etc. Bija, Dhoura, Sahaj, Mundi are important species with poor regeneration.
Dry Deciduous Scrub (5BDS1): Due to repeated the tree loses its vigor resulting in dense under growth of thorny species. The area has been exploited beyond silvicultural and regenerative capacity. Eupatorium, Lantana species seems to be invading the area. Mainly found in Boyakonda, Bidua, Patikota forest block.
Dry Bamboo Brakes (5BE): This type is met with on dry hill slopes and the only species; Salia bamboo occurs and forms relatively low but often-dense brakes. Salia bamboos occur to be exclusion of other species but occasional scattered tree species are met. This type occurs mainly on dry hillsides, where the soil is dry most of the year and often shallow and stony as well. These types are met in Taptapani, Govindapur, Dhandamera blocks. These forests have suffered from adverse biotic factors like heavy grazing, fire, mal treatment in past.
Artificially introduced species: Teak is the single largest species, which has been planted over the years in different forest blocks of this division. The other common species that has been artificially introduced are Red sander, Ghambar, and Cashew etc. Teak plantations are successful at many places like Tumba, Mohona etc.
Forests of Paralakhemundi division have been traditionally harvested by the local people for non-timber forest produce (NTFP). These NTFP have not only provided subsistence goods to life saving medicinal herbs but a great degree of off-season employment too.
A large number of NTFP, starting from thatching material to medicinal plants are available in this division. Some of the major ones being harvested are Tamarind, Sal seed, Mohua flower, Cashew nut, Hill broom, Siali leaves, Karanja seeds, Sabai seeds, Nux vomica, Honey, Arrowroot, Sikakai, Gillo seeds, Sabai grass etc. The products are found in almost all the ranges of this division .
Some of the forest blocks are quite rich and varied in wildlife and this division is having number of species of wild life. The main species are Elephant, Leopard, Sambar, Bear, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, etc. Reptile population is quite rich and so is the avifauna. Lakhari valley wild life sanctuary housing Elephant, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar etc. seen in the vegetative cover of Teak, Sal, Piasal, Bamboo in Chandragiri range.
Lakhari Valley Wild Life Sanctuary in Chandragiri Range spreads over an area of 185.87 sq.kms. of the division. Existing since 1985, vide notification no. 8F(W) 37/85-2333 dated 08.02.1985 of F.F & A.H Department, the sanctuary is situated between 840.15 E to 840.25 E longitude and 190.15 N to 190.25 N latitude. The sanctuary abounds in Elephant, Spotted Deer and Wild Boar etc.
A deer park has been established at Taptapani since 05.10.1986 housing Deer, Sambar etc. This can serve as a temporary rehabilitation center for the entire Berhampur Circle for rescued and seized wild animals before being released into the wild.