India — In the months of February and March, there have been 88 recorded instances of fire in the forests of the state. In between 2005 and 2011, in the table of highest incidence of fire, Koraput is in the peak while Baleswar records the lowest.
The website Forest Survey of India maintained by the Environment & Forests, Ministry of the Government of India gives details of the forest fires. The information shown therein has been provided by the local NGO, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation (RCDC) of Bhubaneswar working on natural resource management issues in central Indian states says that the menace of forest fires has been observed in 88 places in the state in the first quarter of 2011. Most fires have been noted only on one day, March 12. On that day alone 31 forest fires incidence have been recorded. While in Koraput there have been fires in 20 places, Sundargarh records 9, Sambalpur 4, and one place each in Cuttack & Kalahandi districts.
The researchers keeping track of forest fires speak of the maximum recorded fires to be in the year 2010 whereas the Forest Survey of India statistics reveal the maximum number of forest fires is in the Koraput district. In between the years 2005 to 2011, the maximum of 2549 fires have occurred in Koraput district. Kandhamal follows with 2242 instances. Similarly Ganjam district records 1530, Kalahandi 1230, Sambalpur 549, Sundargarh 421, Keonjhar 390, Puri 171, Cuttack 103, and Baleswar records the least 18 places where the forest fires have raged.
However it is estimated that the real figures are much more. Much of forest resources have been reduced to ashes while there is an acute shortage of fire fighting vehicles, equipment and skills.
The increase in collection of Kendu leaves, collection of Mahua flower and sal seed, improvement in collection of NTFP, the opening up of forest paths, slash and burn system of agriculture, burning cigarettes, and fire from picnic spots are cited to be the reasons for forest fires. The researchers point out that building of watch towers to keep track of forest fires, vehicles to roam the forests, training of the forest protection committees, and funds for fighting forest fires can do a lot to prevent fires from raging the jungles.