The Similipal forest fire incident has triggered a response from the Odisha government, which has now constituted a task force to review the state’s forest fires and suggest containment measures, reported the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS). It has been more than ten days since the devastating fire broke out in Asia’s second-largest Biosphere reserve of Similipal, Odisha. The nine-member task force will be headed by the former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Sandeep Tripathi.
The State Fire Department is trying to control the uncontrollable fire but has not seen any success. The fire has already spread to the whole of Anandapur, Khandachira, and Balinal hills in the Southern part of the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).
Similipal Tiger Reserve
Similipal is a National Park and higher reserve situated in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. Similipal is the abode of 94 species of orchids and about 3,000 species of plants. The forest have species of amphibians, birds, reptiles, mammals, which collectively highlights the biodiversity of Similipal. Local people said that large animals such as tigers, elephants, deer and bears could escape the blaze by shifting to unaffected areas. Still, reptiles died, and many valuable trees, including medicinal plants, were destroyed in the fire.
According to the Regional Conservator of forest Similipal, 399 fire points have been identified in the forest’s border areas close to the villages. “The fire is man-made. It was lit by people using dry leaves for collecting forest produces like Sal seeds, Mahua flowers and firewood, besides smuggling timbers and poaching,” a local volunteer claimed. One thousand people, including forest officials, local people and volunteers, have been engaged in disconnecting the fire line to stop the spread of fire. An official said that 40 vehicles and 240 blowers are being used for the purpose.
Dr J.D.Pati, STR’s Deputy Director, said that 21 squads had been formed for each range of North and South Similipal, and village level are being conducted to create awareness among local tribal people to refrain from setting fire in Similipal. The wildfire in Odisha’s STR continues to rage on, and another wildfire has broken out at adjacent Kuladiha Sanctuary in Nilgiri and Boudh Forest Division on Saturday.
Official says the fire is under control
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Sashi Paul, said, “Let me first clarify the perception that has been created that the fire been blazing for almost 15 days. This is incorrect. Like every year, fire points in the forest have been reported during this season. This year too it is being reported. We prepare for these beforehand by forming special squads from February 15 and as we get the satellite information regarding the fire spots, we communicate it to our field staff and accordingly they move to extinguish the fire,” explains Paul.
The fire’s intensity inside the National Park is high because of the hot climate in the Mayurbhanj district. Extra precautions are being taken to regulate it,” Paul told reporters at Baripada, the district headquarters.
The Odisha government has claimed that there was no loss of life in the Similipal National park fire. During a review meeting, Chief Minister (CM) Naveen Patnaik also said that large trees remained unaffected, and the fire has been brought under control. He instructed the officials to be careful and to take all precautionary measures to combat the fire. The Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, had earlier tweeted:
Distressed to learn about the forest fires raging in Simlipal Tiger Reserve from social media platforms. Request the urgent attention of Shri @PrakashJavdekar and CM Shri @Naveen_Odisha on this alarming situation at one of the most important biosphere reserves of the country. https://t.co/ZvbLRpgq7z
— Dharmendra Pradhan (@dpradhanbjp) March 2, 2021
Responding to his tweet, Union Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, tweeted:
I have ordered officers to take immediate action and report it to me . https://t.co/lVYvfJJlkI
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) March 2, 2021