Bhubaneswar: Odisha Forest and Environment Minister B K Arukha told the Assembly on Wednesday that 23,473 fire incidents were reported from different forests in the state since January this year.
Replying to separate questions in the Assembly the minister said the fire incidents were mostly ground fire and not crown fire for which there had been no major loss to the flora and fauna of the jungles.
The fires caused partial damage to over 159 sq km of forests, he said.
"Of the 61,204 sq km of forest areas in Odisha, about 159.93 sq km was partially affected due to the forest fire," the minister said, adding that fire mostly burnt down dry leaves and small herbs in different jungles.
The forest department is actively working to extinguish fire in different forests, Arukha said, adding that the fire was mostly "man-made" as people living inside the forests or in its periphery set the jungle on fire to further their petty interests.
He said some people set fire on jungles to make their Mahula flower (a forest produce) collection easier or for growing grass for their domestic animals. In some cases, the fire spread in forests because people burnt fire for travelling from one place to another during night and left the burning objects in the forests which led to ground fire.
He said as a precaution against forest-fire, the department had marked fire lines in different fire sectors and maintained it carefully to avoid such incidents in future.
The minister said the community forest management system has been beefed up to source cooperation from the public to guard the forest from fire. Almost 13,000 Vana Surakshya Samities (VSS) are at work to vigil 12 lakh hectare forest resources. Similarly the Eco Development Committees have also been given responsibility to assist in watch and ward of forest-fire.
Arukha also informed the House that all required logistics have been provided to the officials and the people in-charge to ensure that the fires are doused as soon as they are located instead of spreading to other areas. He said the Task Force on Forest Fire has been reviewing and monitoring the fire incidents in the jungle with coordination with the Forest Survey of India.
High temperature and low humidity conditions are still continuing in most parts of the state as of now despite the IMD, Bhubaneswar prediction of rainfall in parts of the state in next few days.
ODRAF, fire officers and local villagers are engaged to prevent any proliferation of fire. The fire-fighting gears are being provided to Forest Fire Squads for their safety and improved output.
Continuous online monitoring of fire incidents and constant review of ongoing fire situations in the state is underway. "More than 95 per cent fire incidents are attended to. The fire situation in the state is under control," Forest Fire Task Force chief Dr Sandeep Tripathy said.