Bhubaneswar: Even as the Odisha government has pooh-poohed the claims on the raging fire in the Simlipal National Park by terming all the brouhaha over it as nothing more than mere perception, the burning fact to the fore today is within 96 hours (March 3- March 7) the number of large fire events in the State spread by a massive 208 per cent.
FIRE GOING 'WILD' IN ODISHA?
As per the data available with the Forest Survey of India, the number of large fire events detected in Odisha as on Sunday (March 7) stood at a massive 918. Significantly, just 96 hours ago (on March 3) the number of active large fire events detected in the State stood at only 296.
And the number of fire alerts issued to the state has also doubled during the last 96 hours. The total fire alerts issued to Odisha since November to March 3 stood at 11,717. As of today, the count has jumped to a high of 26,351.
In contrast, the number of fire alerts issued to other top-5 states since Nov 1, 2020, had posted a decline, except in Telangana.
The FSI geo portal image puts a glare on the intensity of forest fires in Odisha. The image (given below) shows how Odisha has appropriated the cap of the top 'Burning Forests' State in the country.
ODISHA WILDFIRE REACHES BHUBANESWAR?
As per the details available, a fire event was detected at 1:34 am today at Dampara in the Chandaka Wildlife Division. The status is still active as at the time of filing the story.
The districts that are majorly singed by forest fires in the State are Mayubhanj (including Simlipal Forest Range), Kalahandi, Nuapada, Rayagada, Gajapati, Angul, Cuttack, Nayagarh, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Deogarh, Kandhmal, Keonjhar and Sudargarh.
IS ODISHA UNPREPARED IN FIRE-FIGHTING?
According to the State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Shashi Paul, Odisha has the wherewithal - manpower and equipments - to deal with the forest fire exigencies.
"Forest fires are a regular phenomenon in every state, including Odisha. There is an increase in the fire events in State due to dry season and abnormal rise in temperature. The forest department had taken necessary precautions this year also." he claimed and added that forest fires in the State are ground fires, not crown fire events.
As per wildlife and forest expert Biswajit Mohanty, the rise in forest fires in the State this year can be clearly attributed to lack of proper and adequate plan of action in the State. Odisha has not deployed adequate fire watchers in the forests to keep a tab on forest fire points, he added.
"It seems the State forest department is not alert. Since the alerts were issued on the basis of satellite images, a readymade plan of action by the State Forest Department could have averted the spreading of the fire to new areas. The fire need to controlled at the 'surface fire' level only. The fire lines are also not maintained properly," he asserted.
ODISHA NEED TAKE A LEAF OUT OF KARNATAKA
Post the 2019 devastating forest fire in Bandipur Tiger Sanctuary, the Karnataka Forest Department had deployed drones to evaluate and assess the vulnerable spots. In Odisha,drones have not been,despite the State figuring among the top-5 states with maximum fire events annually.
The time is ripe for the Odisha government to introduce dynamic forest fire controlling policies in order to reduce the ever rise forest fires in the State, counsel experts.