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Simlipal Forest Fire: Topper Odisha Need To Take A Leaf Out Of Mizo Fire-fight Book!

Odisha forest fire-fighting system goes kaput. Fire incidences in State rose by 127 per cent during a span of 13-years against a drop of 48 per cent in Mizoram. This is so when least prone forest areas in Mizo is 1.64 per cent vis-a-vis 56 per cent in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: The Simlipal Reserve Forest in Odisha burning red for over a week has made the State’s fire management plan go up in smoke. The big howler here for the State is despite not in the top-10 states having the maximum vulnerability to forest fires, Odisha has the dubious distinction of topping the country in forest fires.

Though the forest inferno timeline in Odisha starts from February third week, data with the Forest Survey of India reveals that with a whopping 11,717 fire alerts, Odisha topped the country during the period November 2020 – March 1, 2021.

2021 WILDFIRE IN ODISHA IN GRAPHS

Odisha now tops the country with a count of 296 active large fires in the State as of March 3, 2021. The worst affected districts are Nuapada and Mayurbhanj. Other affected districts are Kalahandi, Ganjam, Gajapati, Rayagada, Bolangir, Nayagarh etc. (see the image of total forest fire alerts issued).

HOW SIMPLIPAL INFERNO STARTED?

BIG ALERT: The maximum day time temperature in the Simlipal forests will rise to 34 deg C on March 9 from the current level of 30 deg C.

Moreover, the wind velocity is all set to rise to 15kmph on March 5 from 12 kmph today.

The rise in temperature and wind velocity may prove a double whammy for the raging inferno in the reserve forest.

“Simlipal has deciduous(leaves shedding) trees where shedding takes place in the fall season (Autumn-Winter). This year the dry season (means no rainfall) extended from November to February. So, when such conditions have made the forest area virtually sit on the tinderbox, a preliminary study hints at the human reason behind triggering the fire. Though the fire alerts were issued by the FSI, lack of a prompt fire-fighting plan on the ground defeats the purpose leading to the fire turning wild,” observed a high-ranking forest official who visited the zone today.

Significantly, he further added that Odisha has to take a leaf out of Mizo’s fire-fighting strategy.

ODISHA VERSUS MIZORAM

A comparative analysis of the forest fire management between Mizoram and Odisha bares it all.

Sample this: The incidences of forest fires in 2005-06 in Mizoram stood at 4,479 as against 1,646 in Odisha.

The data available till 2018 shows when Mizoram had a total fire counts of  2,339 when the total incidences of forest fires in Odisha were at 3,735.

The above factual data shows that forest fire incidences in Odisha had risen by a massive 127 per cent during a span of 13-years. In contrast, Mizoram saw a drop of 48 per cent.

Now Contrast The Area of Vulnerability

Odisha has over 56 per cent of its forest areas that are less prone to forest fires. But the all-important number in Mizoram stood at a mere 1.64 per cent.

CUT TO YEAR 2020-2021

When Odisha topped the country for getting maximum fire alerts by the Forest Survey of India, Mizoram doesn’t even figure among the top-5 in the country.

HOW MIZORAM ACHIEVED THIS OUTCOME?

Mizoram witnessed unprecedented forest fires during the late 70s to early 80s. The average area affected by forest fires during this period was reported to be more than 18,000 ha per annum.

The State government there had then taken a series of measures that are listed below.

  • It enacted the Mizoram (Prevention and Control of Fire in the Village Ram) Rules, 1983 to prevent and control forest fires, including jhum area.
  • Made provisions so as to enforce and try offences relating to forest fires by the Village Councils and Village Courts.
  • In 1999, the Government launched the “Green Mizoram Movement” to frame policies and creates avenues for massive involvement of communities and NGOs in tree plantation and to create public awareness towards the importance of fire protection for the conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • The Chief Minister of Mizoram, the highest administrative head of the government, chairs the State Level Committee on Fire Prevention.
  • Each village in Mizoram has a Village Level Committee on Fire Prevention with 8-11 members, which is headed by the Chairman/President of Village Council.

THE BOTTOMLINE: Significantly, such a proactive fight against forest fires is yet to be seen in Odisha. For which, Asia’s second-largest biosphere reserve – the Simlipal National Park – is now in flames for over a week.

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