The high-velocity cyclone Phailin that hit Odisha about a week ago is estimated to have destroyed around 26 lakh trees in the state.
"As per reports received from cyclone-affected areas about 26 lakh trees have been damaged. The number might go up as reports from a few other places are yet to pour in," said a senior forest official.
The enumeration process of damaged trees is still in progress which is taking time as many forest areas have become inaccessible after the cyclone, he said adding once the roads were cleared, detailed reports would be obtained from all divisions.
It was earlier estimated that about 1.1 lakh trees had been uprooted in the worst-affected Ganjam and Gajapati districts alone.
With massive damage to forest areas, experts have suggested that the government should go for wind-resistant local varieties such as mango, neem and banyan instead of planting fast-growing trees.
"The cyclone with very high wind speed has devastated the forest areas brought down more than 21 lakh trees. This has caused severe damage to the green cover of the state. We will take necessary steps for restoration of greenery and forest cover," said state forest minister Bijayshree Routray.
The uprooted trees included species such as eucalyptus, gulmohar, debdaru, radhachura, banyan, peepal, rain, neem and several fruit-bearing trees such as jackfruit, mango, banana, coconut and cashew trees among others.
The damaged trees, including those in natural forests, educational institutions, houses, roads and streets, have been dumped at several places for disposal.
"It will take years to restore the lost greenery. We are thinking of launching a massive plantation drives from next year. This time, we will plant wind resistant and strong trees instead of fragile varieties such as eucalyptus, debdaru and soon," the minister said.
Experts pointed out that fewer native varieties of trees were uprooted by Phailin and mostly the fast-growing trees perished. Therefore step should be taken to plant species such as tamarind, mango, neem, banyan and jamun, they said.
Lakhs of trees had been uprooted in the state in 1999 super cyclone, sources said adding about 1000 square kilometres of forest areas had been destroyed in the devastating calamity.
Besides extensive damage to trees like sal, mango, coconut plantations had suffered a terrible blow as 90 per cent of them were hit, they said.
Image: Men try to remove fallen trees from a road in Odisha following cyclone Phailin’s devastation
Photograph: Ahmad Masood/Reuters