Himansu Shekhar Rout

With the sun breathing fire, making life miserable, the forests across Odisha are hit by fires. In the last one week, forest fires were recorded at 5,375 points in various forests. The figure is currently said to be the highest in the country. 

As per reports, a hill in Laxmipur of Koraput district has been raging while a thick cloud of smoke has enveloped the hill. The fires are likely to engulf the entire hill. 

Fires are playing havoc on the flora in a forest in the Kalimela area of Malkangiri. Bushes and big trees continue to perish with fires spreading fast to various parts.    

Forest fires are also raging in various parts of Similipal sanctuary in Mayurbhanj. As many as 13 forests and some parts under the Talabandh and Dukura ranges have reported fires.

As per data available from the Forest Survey of India, from November 2023 till date, forest fires were recorded at 13,589 points in the state while 1,396 are said to be major ones.   

On Saturday alone, forest fires were reported from 1,387 points in the state while 127 of these fires are major ones.

Expressing concerns, Bholanath Mallick, a resident of Balimela said, "Some people set the forests on fire which causes the temperatures in the surrounding areas to soar. Life has become hell! Wild animals are dying due to fires.”  

Bhaskar Purusethi, a resident of Laxmipur said, "Forests are set on fire to make way for shifting cultivation. The Forest Department has failed to check it. We find it difficult to bear the blazing temperature.” 

On the other hand, in the past week, Odisha recorded the highest number of fires in the country at 5,375 points. 

PCCF Debidutta Biswal said that 99 per cent of fires are manmade.  People are setting forests on fire to collect mahua flowers and kendu leaves or for shifting cultivation, he said.

Biswal added that the Forest Department has been carrying out awareness programmes for the people. However, despite massive preparedness, forest fires are assuming critical proportions which has left environmentalists concerned.

Jaykrushna Panigrahi, an environmentalist said, "It is a matter of regret and concern that Odisha always tops in the country when it comes to forest fires. This is happening despite all possible measures taken for prevention.”

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