The Centre will send an expert team to Odisha to help the state government effectively tackle the devastating fire raging in Similipal National Park, the second-largest biosphere in Asia.
The team is scheduled to reach here on Thursday to assess the situation in the national park, a major part of which is located in Mayurbhanj district. Some of its periphery areas touch neighbouring Keonjhar and Balasore districts.
“Today Sh. @dpradhanbjp & other MPs from Odisha met me regarding Forest Fire in #SimilipalNationalPark & nearby. @moefcc is sending a committee of experts to Odisha to give technical advise &help out state forest dept. in effective management of forest fire incidents in the region,” Union minister for environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) Prakash Javadekar tweeted on Wednesday.
The expert team from the ministry will be in touch with the Odisha forest officials on the issue of tackling fire in the Similipal forest.
“The experts will work in coordination with the deployed team for early and effective dousing of forest fire. Will be reviewing the situation with the team on a regular basis,” Javadekar tweeted.
The nine-member delegation of Odisha BJP MPs in their memorandum to the Union minister demanded setting up of a committee with representatives both from the central and state forest departments, environmentalists and forest conservationists to come up with a long-term action plan to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in Odisha.
After meeting the Union minister, BJP MP Suresh Pujhari said, “Forest fire takes place in April and May. But this year, it started in February. The fire has spread to nearly 650 small and big forests, including Similipal forest, destroying the flora and fauna. It needs immediate attention.”
The Press Information Bureau in a media release said, “Acting on the directions of the Union environment minister, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change has constituted a team consisting of Dr Amit Mallick, inspector-general of forests, National Tiger Conservation Authority, New Delhi; Subratt Mahapatra, deputy director-general of forests, MoEF&CC regional office, Bhubaneswar; and Arti Chaudhary, head, Silviculture–ICFRE (as fire expert).
The initial terms of reference for the team would be to assess the status of fire incidents in Odisha and Similipal Tiger Reserve, provide expert and technical advice to the state for containing fire in forest area, gauge the status of loss of forest and wildlife and its relationship with poaching, if any.
The team will be working till the state attains a normal situation with respect to fire incidents.
The environment minister said along with the team at MoEFCC, he would himself monitor the map showing the forest fire detections in Odisha every day and a separate map showing fire detection in Similipal Tiger Reserve / Biosphere Reserve.
Ruling Biju Janata Dal Rajya Sabha member Dr Sasmit Patra tweeted: “Odisha Govt along with its Task Force is working tirelessly 24x7 to control and eliminate the fire in Simlipal. The BJD volunteers on ground and working in tandem to douse the fire. Thousands of Forest Officials, ODRAF Personnel, Fire Services are at work. #BJDWithSimilipal”
The state government has set up a 24x7 control room to get feedback from the people about the forest fire. The state government has also cancelled the leave of forest officials in all the forest divisions of Odisha for an indefinite period.
“We have decided to involve the panchayat-level officials in the control and mitigation of forest fire incidents,” said Sandeep Tripathi, head of the task force constituted to suggest measures to tackle such incidents in Odisha. Tripathi also said that the active fire in Similipal had been contained now.
According to the decision of the government, district-level officials will take the help of the sarpanches and panchayati raj institutions to douse the forest fires.