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Rashmi Ranjan

Bhubaneswar: Alarmed over the wildfire devouring large tracts of forests in the Similipal biosphere reserve, a senior member of the three-member Central team arrived in Bhubaneswar on Thursday to assist the Odisha government in containing the unprecedented devastation in the National Park.

Amit Mallick, Inspector General of Forests(IGF) of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) reached the State Capital this afternoon. He along with Subrat Mohapatra,  Deputy Director General of Forests (Central) of the ministry’s regional office in Bhubaneswar, who is also a member of the Central team, will visit the National Park to take stock of the situation and tender expert technical advice for early dousing of the forest fires.

According to sources, the expert team has been asked to assess the status of the fire incidents in the biosphere reserve, give their advice to the State government for containing the fire in the forest and provide the status of loss of forest and wildlife and its relationship with poaching activity, if any.

The team will be stationed in Odisha till the fire situation in various forests attains normalcy.

Earlier on Wednesday Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar  had said that he will monitor the everyday map of the forest fire detections in Odisha and a separate map showing fire detection in Similipal Tiger Reserve.

Notably, a massive fire had erupted in the biosphere reserve area in February. As per reports, as many as 290 foresting were burning by March 9 and the number subsequently came down to 268.

As many as 750 Forest department officials, 800 fire watchers and two Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) teams have been pressed into service to contain the forest fires in the State.

Similipal is a national park and tiger reserve situated in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. The 2,750 sq km area harbours unique melanistic tigers, rare and endemic orchids, 1,352 species of plants, 55 species of mammals, 361 of birds, 62 of reptiles and 21 species of amphibians.

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