Sudden rainfall in Karanjia block of Mayurbhanj district on Wednesday, 10 March, spelled relief as it helped contain the two-week long fire that has been ravaging the Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha, Asia’s second largest biosphere.
The rainfall, which lasted for over an hour and a half has helped prevent further spread of the wild fire, and has managed to contain most of the forest fires which have been reported from over 918 places in the forests of Sambalpur district, Sundergarh, Kendrapara and Koraput districts according to The Telegraph.
However, the fire is not fully contained yet.
But this is good news for forest officials who have been working 24/7 to contain the fire. One such being Sneha Dhal, a forest guard who was seen celebrating the rain in a video that has gone viral on social media.
The incident sparked global outrage as forest officials and volunteers have been struggling to contain the fire, which has claimed the lives of several species that inhabit the forests, and has caused severe ecological damage.
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. It is home to as many as 42 species of mammals, 29 types of reptiles and 231 species of birds. UNESCO had added the National Park to its list of Biosphere Reserves back in 2009.
”The timely actions taken through different agencies by the state government have resulted in the containment of the ongoing forest fire in the state to a great extent and the situation is well under control,” said the office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) to India Today.
Union Forest and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar is monitoring the situation on a daily basis and has constituted a committee of forest conservation and fire experts to assess the situation.
Task Force to Contain Fire
The Odisha government is strategising on how to douse the fire using satellite images provided by National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC). Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday formed a task force to contain the forest fires, which is being led by Sandeep Tripathi.
Tripathi told The Telegraph that the NRSC images are helping the task force to “know the extent of the damage and the new fires starting at new places”, based on which they will strategise how to control the fire.
“The Forest Fire Points were 290 on 9 March, and the latest figure of point inside the forest is 268. The fire in Similipal is totally contained and today only 24 points are detected, which are being attended in the field,” said the task force, as quoted by India Today.
The task force constitutes of members from Forest Survey of India, Indian Council of Forest Research and Education as well as head of forest and ecology, NRSC.
There are 1,250 personnel stationed, including fire protection squads, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and 40 vehicles of the Forest Department to douse the fire, added the report.
The forest fire has already devoured eight of the total 21 ranges, and has spread to the whole of Anandapur, Kandachira, and Balinal hills under Podadiha Forest Range, in the southern part of the STR.
(With inputs from India Today and The Telegraph)