The kind of forest fire the US witnessed last year has just become frighteningly real for India too. Fire in Simlipal National Park raged over 10 days destroying nearly one-third of the property. Surprisingly, the government is reporting that the current situation in the state is under control. However, the source is undefined till now.
According to various reports, the fire at the Simlipal National Park has been ranging around a week for now and spreading to the adjacent areas. However, the statement issued by the Odisha Government has also ensured that there has been no loss of life, large trees have remained untouched and the fire is brought under control. Although, it was not clear what the authorities meant by the statement “no loss of life”. The lives of whom? Humans or animals?
Reporters from PTI urged the Chief Secretary of the forest and environment department, Mona Sharma, for a statement, but to no avail. The reason is still unknown why the Government took a week to swing into action and douse the flames?
Meanwhile, the forest and climate change minister Prakash Javedkar has sought a report on the devastating fire at the Park from the authorities concerned. He further stated that this fire in the park has already spread across an area of 2,750 sq. km in the Mayurbhanj district.
Local people have expressed concern that bigger animals such as tigers, elephants, zebras, deers can escape the blaze by moving to some safer place. However, numerous other reptiles and small animals will not be able to escape the fire. Reports suggest that many valuable trees including medicine plants also burnt down in the fire.
Almost 1,000 people including forest officials, volunteers, and others are engaged in disconnecting the fire line in order to stop the spread to other areas. An official stated that about 40 vehicles and 240 blowers are employed for this purpose. However, the core area of the tiger reserve remains unaffected, stated JD Pati, the deputy director of the Similipal Tiger Reserve.
“The fire is man-made. It is lit by people using dry leaves for collecting forest products like sal seeds, mahua flowers, and firewood, besides smuggling timbers and poaching”- a local volunteer claimed.
Union minister of petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, had earlier tweeted:
“Distressed to learn about the forest fire raging in Similipal Tiger Reserve from social media platforms. Request the urgent attention of Shri @PrakashJavadekar and CM Shri@Naveen _Odisha on this alarming situation at one of the most important biosphere reserves of the country.”
In reply to his tweet, union minister Javadekar posted: “I have ordered officers to take immediate action and report to me.”
Even Mayurbhanj royal family member Akshita M Bhanja Deo has also expressed concern over the situation.
Union MSME minister Pratap Sarangi tweeted:
“Similipal is burning and it’s not a good sign for Asia. Mayurbhanj needs national and international media attention as its cause is genuine. Sad, not any leading national media is covering the story of Similipal since fire broke a week ago.”
As of now, the flames have already spread over 21 ranges, including the entirety of Anandapur, Balinal, and Kandachira hills under Podadiha Forest Range. Simlipal National Park is known for its tiger and elephant conservation. UNESCO has enlisted the National Park to the list of Biosphere Reserve in 2009.