India — A major fire that broke out in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) in Mayurbhanj district a couple of days back has engulfed vast area killing wild animals and destroying rare plants. The fire is spreading to nearby forests with the STR authorities failing to control it with limited fire fighting mechanism.
Locals said the fire, which broke out initially in Jadapal section of Naana south range, spread to Dhuduruchampa and later Bhanjabasa, Gunduria, Podadiha and Sarua sections of Jenabil range. The residents are scared as the fire is spreading towards their habitations. It is also feared that valuable and rare medicinal plants spread over hundreds of acres might have been reduced to ashes as no step could be immediately taken to douse the fire.
A tribal Krushna Tudu said this is the first forest fire this summer. We have never seen forest fire of such a magnitude. It is spreading to other areas rapidly and would turn into a disaster for human habitations if not checked immediately, he said.
Similipal Biosphere Reserve is spread over an area of 2,750 sq km. When the forest is littered with dry leaves, the forest dwellers follow the age-old practice of igniting fire to clear the forest floor for facilitating easy collection of mahua flowers and sal seeds. Wildlife activists said the practice of podu cultivation by the tribals is one of the major reasons behind the outbreak of forest fire.
The poachers too ignite fire. When wild animals run away from fire to safer areas, those are easily hunted. Though as per norms, the forest officials should regularly check fire line, they mostly come to douse the fire when it spreads to larger areas.
Regional Chief Conservator of Forests (RCCF) and Field Director of Similipal HK Bist said efforts were on to bring the fire under control. Suspecting involvement of some unscrupulous people behind the alarming fire, he said the fire fighting teams have been engaged to douse the fire and check it from spreading further. It will take time to control the fire completely, he added urging the locals to join hands with forest personnel to douse the fire.