Mahua collectors a threat to biosphere

Dry leaves set on fire in Similipal. Telegraph picture

Balasore/Baripada: Forest fire caused by humans pose a serious threat to the flora and fauna of Similipal biosphere and Kuldhia sanctuary especially during mahua flowering season.

Bhanumitra Acharya, an environment lover of Baripada, said villagers set fire in the jungle areas around this time to clear dry leaves on the ground to ease the collection of mahua flowers.

These flowers are used to prepare a drink which has addictive properties.

The forest department recently arrested two persons for setting fire in the jungle at two places.

A 41-year-old man identified as Ajay Jena, resident of Suthanga in Khantapara police limits, was apprehended when he was setting fire in the reserve forest in the foothill of Swarnachuda, Nilgiri, on Tuesday. Sixty-year-old Santan Deuri, resident of Podagada village in Jashipur police limits was arrested when he was setting fire in the Manada reserve forest in the buffer region of the sanctuary.

They were booked under Section of 27 of the Forest Act and were sent to jail after their bail petitions were rejected.

Every year, hundreds of acres of forest land is burnt by villagers. Acharya said: "At times, the poachers too set jungle on fire to kill animals. The inferno causes massive damages if it goes out of control and spreads to adjacent forests."

Balasore divisional forest officer, Biswaraj Panda, said fire lines had been drawn to prevent fire from spreading from one region to other.

"The process of drawing fire lines is under way and it would be completed by the third week of this month. We have our own department squad and blowers to extinguish the fire. During the time of need assistance of villagers is sought to the douse flames," he said.

"The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership and the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer satellite information are proving effective for combating the forest fire menace," he said.

These satellites have been providing feed to the forest department via the Forest Survey Of India (FSI) thrice a day. This technology, in case of any fire mishap, is able to detect the area within 375 sqkm using geo-coordinates, latitude and longitude.

"Alert is received in forms of SMS from FSI thrice a day. In case of fire incident, we are provided with the latitude and longitude. These information via satellite have proved extremely useful, particularly for the hostile and inaccessible areas of the forest as we are able to proceed immediately with implements to douse the flame," Panda said.


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