Wildfires Ravage Odisha’s Similipal, Gut a Third of National Park
UNESCO had added the National Park to its list of Biosphere Reserves back in 2009.
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Union Forest Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday, 3 March, directed the concerned officials to take immediate steps in order to control the wildfire.
For over a week, forest fires have been ravaging the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha.
According to Odishatv.in, the flames have already devoured eight of the total 21 ranges. The fire has spread to the whole of Anandapur, Kandachira, and Balinal hills under Podadiha Forest Range, in the southern part of the STR.
Similipal is a National Park and Tiger Reserve covering an area of 2,750 sq km. It’s known for its tiger and elephant population. UNESCO had added the National Park to its list of Biosphere Reserves back in 2009.
Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan also expressed concern over the situation and requested the attention of Javadekar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Responding to Pradhan’s tweet, Javadekar said, “I have ordered officers to take immediate action and report it to me.”
Odisha Tops Forest Fire Counts in the Country
As per a report by Down To Earth (DTE), at least 5,291 forest fires were recorded in Odisha between 22 February and 1 March — the highest in the country for the same period, as per data provided by the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
Some cities in the state crossed the 40 degree Celsius mark on 28 February. Apart from the rising temperatures, other reasons for the forest fires are collection of mahua flowers and kendu leaves, practice of shifting cultivation, and grazing in forest areas, as told by Sudhakar Mohapatra, a retired forest officer to DTE.
The Forest Department has intensified its wildfire mitigation efforts, according to a report by The New Indian Express. As many as 21 squads, led by deputy rangers, have been formed for each range across five divisions – North and South STR (Wildlife) besides Baripada, Rairangpur, and Karanjia (territorial) – to deal with the wildfires.
As per The New Indian Express report, Deputy Director STR Jagyandatta Pati said that village-level meetings are being conducted to spread awareness among tribals, to refrain them from the practice of setting trees on fire for collection of mahua flowers.
(With inputs from DownToEarth, The New Indian Express and Odishatv.in)
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