Flames rip through parts of Odisha reserve, efforts underway to tackle situation


PTI, Mar 28, 2022, 5:32 PM IST

Representative Image (Source: Pixabay)

Baripada: Fire has engulfed parts of the Similipal National Park in Odisha, an official said on Monday, as authorities battled to prevent a repeat of last year’s havoc at the UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Forest fire is an annual phenomenon in Similipal forest — spread over 2,750 square kilometers in Mayurbhanj district and home to the Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, and Indian bison among other animals.

At least six places in the forest – including areas in Talabandha and Chahala ranges — were found to have caught fire on Monday, the official said.

According to Regional Chief Conservator of Forests M Yogajayanand, 200 firefighters have been pressed into service to douse the flames.

The firefighting teams have been able to put out the fire in the Gudugudia range, while efforts to tackle the situation were underway in other locations.

Established in 1973, Similipal derives its name from the ‘simul’ (silk cotton) tree Sal trees are also found abundantly in the region.

Last year, between February and March, the fire situation had gone out of control, and it took authorities almost three weeks to contain the rage. The Odisha government had to seek the assistance of central forces to control the inferno.

The Similipal authority has undertaken several steps to ensure the safety of locals, including an awareness campaign conducted at the villages on the foothills of the wildlife sanctuary, Yogajayanand said.

As many as 500 leaf blowers are being used to create fire breaks in buffer areas of Similipal. It will prevent the spread of fire towards the core areas, he explained.

Around 700 fire watchers have been deployed in various strategic locations of Similipal, he said.

Villagers are also extending help in carrying out the control burning exercise, under which dry vegetation on the landscape is intentionally set ablaze to reduce the risk of wildfires, the official added.

Meanwhile, two men have been arrested last week for allegedly trying to kindle a fire inside the Sadangi forest range of Dhenkanal district, an official said, adding that a country-made gun was seized from their possession.

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