Odisha has witnessed a jump in a forest fire, becoming the worst affected State in the country if the Forest Survey of India (FSI) report of the week is any indication.
The manifold jump in forest fire alerts has emerged as a major threat to the fragile ecosystem, flora, and fauna in the State in forest areas including the Simlipal National Park.
The State has registered as many as 533 forest fire cases in the last week, which is the highest forest fire case across the country with 76 incidents on an average every day.
Odisha was followed by Manipur (459), Karnataka (441), Madhya Pradesh (415) and West Bengal (327), according to the FSI report.
The fire outbreaks of this nature as early as February poses grave risk to Odisha’s dwindling forest cover. There is an absolute lack of watch and vigil by forest officials that has paved the way for the prevailing situation, said conservationists.
The ground level feedback from residents of forest-side villages regarding the outbreak of fire in the jungle in the vicinity has practically stopped trickling in due to official’s lack of interaction with the communities.
The fire alert calls to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests toll free helpline number (18003457158) are few and far between. With senior forest department officials not undertaking field trips, the supervision and monitoring of forest fires are left much to be desired. All these have contributed to the outbreak of forest fires in recent days.
The outbreak of forest fires usually begins in April and May. The forest department needs to wake up to expedite firefighting measures to protect the precious natural wealth. The complacency may cost dear in the massive loss of forest cover, they pointed out.
People living on the fringes of forest play a key role in checking forest fires. It’s these villages who get a whiff of fire before the forest personnel could come to know of it. As forest wealth is a permanent livelihood source for them, people from these forest-side villages are required to be involved in the firefighting.
Fire-induced loss to forest wealth is immense and irreparable. The timber species besides fruit-bearing trees are gutted. It takes years for trees to grow up. But spark could reduce the forest wealth within minutes. Fire also destroys wildlife and its habitat. Nests and eggs of ground dwelling birds are lost. Reptiles also lose their young ones due to forest fires.
Prompt response and early dissemination of alert information is vital to save the forest from fire destruction. Often, the squads are informed of the fire at a conflagration stage. So it becomes an uphill task to tame the inferno, they concluded.