Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Baripada, Mar 12:
After irreversible damage has already been done to the flora, fauna and wildlife in the Similipal Reserve Forest in Mayurbhanj district by a raging fire that has already lasted over a week, the Odisha government today woke up to the urgent need for damage control measures.
As many as 39 squads comprising 390 persons, equipped with fire tenders, have been pressed into service to douse the fire that has gobbled up large tracts of the reserve forest.
“I came to know from media reports about the incident. Thirty nine squads have been engaged in fire fighting. The PCCF and forest officials have been instructed to take adequate measures to contain the fire,” Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh said.
“Though fire in Similipal is a regular affair, this year it has been fierce. Investigation is on to ascertain the reason behind the worst-ever inferno in the recent past in the STR. An emergency meeting is scheduled this evening at the state secretariat to take stock of the situation and initiate remedial measures,” Arukh said.
As per reports coming from Ground Zero, the fire has spread to Jadapala and Duruchampa sections of Na’ana South range of Similipal forest reserve core area and Gunduria, Podadiha and Sarua sections of the Jenabil range of the sanctuary.
Forest officials, with help from villagers, have been able to douse the fire in the buffer area, the fire in the core has continued to rage, the reports said.
Forest officials claim that miscreants have been setting the jungles on fire for podu cultivation, poaching and firewood purposes. When the forest floor is covered with dry leaves, the forest dwellers follow the age-old practice of setting them afire to keep the floor clear. This facilitates the collection of Mahua flowers and Sal seeds, sources said.
It may be mentioned that the huge expanse of lush green forested area of Simlipal National Park and Tiger Reserve spread over about 2750 sq km area is a compact mass of unique natural forest that controls the climatic regime of the whole of Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand. The STR is the fourth largest tiger reserve in the country.