India — With Chaitra Parva being celebrated in wild frenzy, vast areas of forests across Koraput district are on fire. Huge patches of forest land in the plains and hill have been destroyed and countless small animals roasted alive.
Over the past few days, tribals, who dominate the area, have been on a hunting spree. They use fires and sounds to frighten animals, which troop out of their dens only to fall prey to revellers. “Tribals have a tradition of hunting during Chaitra Parva. But this is something which is really alarming. Massive awareness drive should be launched among the tribal communities against setting forest on fire or else, all our efforts to regenerate forests will go waste,” said environmentalist Prafulla Padhi.
They also set forests on fire to clear land for shifting cultivation and collect mahua flowers. Also at times, miscreants throw cigarette butts giving rise to fires.
This is the time of the year when tribals collect mahua flowers. They light fire below the mahua tree to clear the grass so that when the flowers fall on then ground, those can be easily seen. But the fires spread to other parts of the forest in the process,” Padhi said.
Admitting that inspite of all their efforts they have achieved little success in ensuring zero fire in the forests, divisional forest officer (Koraput) Peria Samy said, “Firefighters have been deployed at various range offices to control spread of fire but due to vastness of forest area it is becoming difficult to have a total control over fire in the forests. Moreover, our men face difficulty in moving at night hours in the forests.”
According to the officer, the tribals are being made aware of not to light fire in forests through village meetings, wall paintings and distributing pamphlets at haats (weekly markets). “The tribals are urged to save forests for the survival of their own community,” he said.