Baripada, Mar 29 (PTI) Five people were arrested as the “man-made” fire in the Similipal forests in Odisha continue to spread to more areas on Tuesday, officials said.
Forest fire is an annual phenomenon in the UNESCO biosphere reserve in Mayurbhanj district that is home to rich biodiversity, including many endangered species of flora and fauna, including the black tiger.
There are six fire points in the north wildlife division and three in the south. All the reported incidents are being dealt with, an official said, as the authorities battle to prevent a repeat of last year’s devastation.
“The fire is manmade. It is lit by tribals with dry leaves to collect forest produce like sal seeds, mohua flowers and firewood, besides poaching,” Similipal Tiger Reserve field director M Yogajayanand said.
Five poachers were arrested for allegedly kindling a fire in an attempt to hunt wild animals and felling trees at Nawana range in North Similipal, Assistant Conservator of Forests Pradeep Dey told reporters.
Bows, arrows and four axes were seized from them, Dey added.
Around 200 fire watchers, hundreds of field staff and the fire squad have been pressed into service for prevention and management of the blaze. Drones are also being used, forest officials said.
The Similipal reserve, spread over 5,500 square kilometers, derives its name from the ‘shimul’ (red silk cotton) tree. Sal trees are also found abundantly in the region. The forest consists of a wildlife sanctuary, tiger reserve and a national park.
Between February-March last year, the situation went out of control in Similipal as it took almost three weeks to contain a raging wildfire.
The Odisha government had to seek the assistance of central forces to control the inferno, which wreaked havoc and made national headlines.
The Similipal authority is conducting mass-awareness drives and training programmes at the villages to create fire breaks in buffer areas. It will prevent the spread of uncontrolled fire toward the core areas.
Villagers are also extending help in carrying out the control burning exercise, under which dry vegetation on the landscape is intentionally set ablaze to reduce the risk of wildfires. PTI CORR HMB SOM SOM
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Source: The Print