Baripada/Bhubaneswar: Nearly 10 days after a devastating wildfire broke out in the Similipal Tiger Reserve and the adjoining sanctuary and continue to devour large chunks of the park in quick succession, the Odisha government seems to have woken up to the unprecedented environmental and ecological disaster now.
On Wednesday Odisha’s Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) and other senior officials to visit the spot and assess the situation.
“PCCF Sashi Paul along with other senior officials will enquire into the cause of fire today and report to the department on Thursday,” Arukh said.
The minister’s directive comes a day after Union Forest Minister Prakash Javedkar ordered ‘concerned authorities’ to initiate immediate steps to douse the fire in the forest. Responding to a tweet by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on the incident, Javadekar said that he had sought a report from the authorities in this regard.
Union Minister Pratap Sarangi has also expressed serious concerns over the devastating fire in the forest. While expressing his displeasure over the silence of the National media over the massive crisis, Sarangi on Wednesday said the fire in the Similipal forest is not a good sign for the whole of the continent (Asia).
Sarangi requested his Cabinet colleague Prakash Javadekar to instruct leading national news channels for a wide-coverage of the issue. The BJP MP from Balasore also urged Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take the matter seriously.
Simlipal is burning and it's not a good sign for Asia. Mayurbhanj needs national and international's media attention as its cause is genuine. Sad, not any leading national media is covering the story of Simlipal since fire breaks a week ago. https://t.co/gJ2AFiCcWo
— Pratap Sarangi (@pcsarangi) March 3, 2021
According to reports, the fire has spread to Anandpur, Khandachira and Balinal hills under Podadiha range in the reserve. Similarly, major chunk of the forest under Thakurmunda range on the northern side of Similipal is also in the grip of the blaze, reports said.
As the intensity of the blaze increases, several herbal plants, big trees along with wild animals are apprehended to be burnt alive.
Forest officials claimed that most of the forest-fire is man-made. People set dry trees on fire during spring season to collect Mahua which leads to such situation, they added.
Forest personnel accompanied by fire fighters and local residents have been trying to douse the flames.
"We have mobilized adequate number of officials along with well equipped fire squads to bring the inferno under control. Temporary fire squad with fire extinguishing equipment has also carried out operations to douse the flames," said JD Pati, additional director, Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).
Over 1000 personnel including 800 forest personnel and 250 forest guards have been engaged. Moreover 40 fire tenders and 240 blower machines have been pressed into service to contain the blaze, Pati added.
The Similipal forest, spread in an area of 2,750 square kilometres, also has a sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to 304 species of birds, 62 species of reptiles, 37 species of fish and 55 species of animals.
To ensure the safety of the forest, Similipal had been divided into two parts. Two Deputy Directors were posted in the forest range offices. The officials, however, could not prevent the fire from spreading into the sanctuary.