Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Baripada, Mar 11:
Wildfire has engulfed the Similipal forest reserve in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district endangering life of animals and posing a threat to the ecosystem.
The fire, which started almost a week ago at the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) and the adjoining areas, has been swallowing up the forest rapidly with each passing day.
The inferno has caused huge damage to the birds, animals and the plantations and is suspected to be a handiwork of miscreants.
Meanwhile, the villagers, mostly tribals, have been living in a state of panic as the alleged manmade blaze is spreading from one hill to another at an alarming rate.
“We fear that it will destroy our houses too as we live in thatched houses. Fire tenders haven’t reached the forested area yet to douse the fire,” Tukul Murmu, a Godipokhari villager said.
It is feared that many wild animals living in these forests could have perished in the fire. In addition to this, rare and medicinal plants worth lakhs of rupees might have been damaged as no step could be taken to contain the fire.
“The fire is more vigorous than it was the previous year. We are panicked,” a villager Krushna Tudu said.
As per reports, the fire has spread to Jadapala and Duruchampa sections of Naana South range of Similipal forest reserve core area and Gunduria, Podadhia and Sarua sections of the Jenabil range of the sanctuary.
Forest officials claim that miscreants have been setting the jungles on fire for podu cultivation, poaching and firewood purposes.
“Our men are dousing the fire in areas whenever we get information about it. Soon after, the miscreants again set the jungle on fire so that it would appear as if the forest officials are not doing anything to contain the fire,” chief regional wildlife conservator Harishchandra Bist said.
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 would facilitate collection of Mahua flowers and Sal seeds, sources said.
The huge expanse of lush green forested area of Simlipal National Park 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 wildfire, if not controlled in time, is set to disturb the environmental equilibrium, environmentalist apprehend.