Mrunal Manmay Dash

Odisha is likely to see increased incidents of forest fires this year, warned the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Debidutta Biswal on Monday.

He feared that given the climatic conditions, similar kind of wildfires seen in last few years cannot be ruled out.

“In fact, the wildfires are already being reported form the last week of January itself. The dry weather is not helping either. If it does not rain early this year, then we cannot rule out more wildfires this year too,” Biswal said.

“Though it is too early to predict the magnitude of fires; right now, we have received wildfire reports from 100 to 200 places in the State. But if we get a longer dry spell, then it can rise to more than one thousand by April,” he said.

“However, we have a blueprint ready with us including fire-fighting personnel, and equipment. We plan at district level and with an integrated approach taking both the fire department and local administration on board. If need arises we will take appropriate steps to tackle the forest fires,” Biswal asserted.

Instances of wildfires ravaging our jungles every year are not new. In a recent occurrence in June last year, a massive fire reportedly broke out at Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary in Puri.

The world famous Similipal biosphere has been a victim of wildfires for some years now. While seven fire points were reported at Similipal biosphere reserve - six points were reported in Talabandha range and one in Chahala range in 2022.

In March 2021, nearly two years ago, massive forest fires gripped vast stretches of Similipal, grabbing national/global media attention.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in May 2022 had asked Forest department officials to prepare an integrated plan to tackle forest fires.

(Reported By Kapilendra Pradhan, OTV)