Fire breaks out in Similipal tiger reserve
A devastating fire has broken out in the Similipal tiger reserve and its periphery areas, the second-largest biosphere of Asia, prompting the Odisha government to deploy nearly 1,000 people in different parts of the sanctuary spread across 2,750sqkm.
Though the core area of the tiger reserve is located in Mayurbhanj district, its periphery areas touch another two districts — Balasore and Keonjhar.
The Centre has sought a detailed report on the fire following widespread concern.
The incident came to light after Ashita M. Bhanj Deo, popularly known as the princess of Mayurbhanj, raised the issue and tweeted, “Mayurbhanj had devastating forest fire this past week, a week ago close to 50kg of ivory was found, a few months ago local youth reported on sand-timber mafia in Similipal, Apart from a few state media, no national media is covering Asia’s second-largest biosphere burning.”
The fire has devoured a few of the 21 ranges in the Similipal forest division.
However, local forest officials maintained that the fire was under control and not a single animal death had been reported.
The Centre ordered a detailed report after Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan raised the issue.
“I have ordered officers to take immediate action and report it to me,” tweeted Union minister of environment, forest and climate change Prakash Javadekar.
Deputy director of Similipal Tiger Reserve, J.D. Pati, told The Telegraph: “The fire is yet to reach the core area of the forest. Flames have been spotted in the periphery areas of the sanctuary. Nearly 1,000 personnel, including fire officials, have been engaged to douse the fire. As many as 242 fire extinguishing blowers and 40 vehicles have been deployed.”
On the reason behind the fire, Pati said, “A heat wave is on and the temperature is seven degrees above normal. The mercury hovers at 40°C. There are many reasons behind the fire. But we are on a constant vigil. So far, not a single casualty of wild animals has been reported.”
The sanctuary is home to 55 important animal species, including tigers and elephants.
The tiger reserve has 21 tigers, including six melanistic ones.
“All the animals are safe. With the help of local people we are doing our bit to control the fire,” said Pati.
The local residents pointed out that there had been a massive loss of the trees, particularly the rare medicinal plants.
Many people suspect the mafia of having started the fire to poach wild animals and collect mahua.
“The fire is visible even from a distance of 40km. It appears like a ball of fire in the evening. The fire has already spread to areas such as Thakurmunda, Morada, Jashipur and other parts of the district. Last year, the forest officials had failed to conduct the mandatory cleaning of the forest. Their laxity has resulted in the breakout of the fire. It’s almost difficult to drive on NH-16 passing through the district,” said a senior scribe of a leading vernacular newspaper of the state from Baripada, the headquarters of Mayurbhanj district.
Union minister Pratap Sarangi tweeted: “Similipal is burning and it’s not a good sign for Asia. Mayurbhanj needs national and international attention as its cause is genuine. Sad, not any leading national media is covering the story of Similipal since fire breaks out a week ago.”