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Mangrove fire at Bhitarkanika

Kendrapara, April 26: A forest fire swept nearly two acres of mangrove cover leaving in its wake a trail of destruction in the protected area of Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary.

The fire was man-made and it has been doused. The extent of the damage has been minimised, said forest officials. Apart from gutting young mangroves and swampy bushes, the blaze also damaged fauna growing close to the ground.

Illegal honey collectors are suspected to have perpetrated the fire. Usually, mangroves twigs are set on fire by honey collectors to drive away honey-bees with the smoke.

“The forest department received the report of an outbreak of fire in west Orasahi forest block around 10.30pm yesterday night. Despite the inaccessibility of the area, forest personnel rushed to the spot to carry out fire control measure. Within an hour or two, the forest fire was controlled. The unseasonal rain last night also came as a blessing in disguise,” said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, divisional forest officer, Rajnagar mangrove (wildlife) forest division.

The blaze of the inferno did not intensify to cause major damage to the mangrove cover. Damage caused due to the fire was limited though it had spread across a two-acre stretch. Swampy bushes and ground-dwelling root faunas were partially damaged. Wildlife like spotted deer and wild boars were not affected.

We have got conclusive evidence that the fire was the handiwork of a group of honey collectors. In their attempt to collect honey from beehives, they set twigs and thorny bushes on fire. Later, it spread fast to larger areas of the forest, said forest officials.

Destruction of forest wealth is a serious offence. The forest department would now step up vigil on trespassing honey collecting groups.

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