Simlipal Forest Fire ‘Under Control’, says Odisha Government

The Simlipal biosphere reserve in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district had caught a massive fire, which the state government claims is now under control as over 1000 officials from the forest department are on the job. However, the lack of response from the forest staff has pushed the state to call for rapid response to such situations.

This comes at a time when the state has topped the list of forest fire incidents with 8688 fire spots since February 25 as per the Forest Survey of India’s fire alerts system based on SNPP (Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership). Telangana takes up the second spot with 1769 fires during the same period. Odisha also saw 11,708 forest fires since November 1 last year, the highest among all the states.

“Although the FSI fire point incidences reported are very high during this month they have not been responded/attended to immediately which is a matter of concern. It is seen that about 60% of the reported fire points have only been responded to. It is imperative that all the fire points in the field are attended on a priority basis and the forest fire should be extinguished immediately before it spreads to adjoining forest areas. All-out efforts should be made for prevention of forest fires through effective foot patrolling, surveillance and sensitization of Vana Suraksha Samiti members and forest dwellers,” said a letter from the state forest department to all divisional forest officers.

The biosphere reserve, spread over 5569 sq km, contributes 38% of the total protected area in Odisha. It is also one of the oldest tiger reserves in the country. Conservationists fear that several orchids and medicinal plants may have been burnt by the fire.

“It would take some time before the losses can be counted. It’s too early for anyone to say that there have been no losses,” reported conservationist Vanoomitra Acharya in Baripada.

Notably, all the DFOs under the forest department have been asked to submit a daily report on the number of fire points in their respective divisions.

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