The Similipal Forest Reserve area in Odisha that had been engulfed with a forest fire for the past few days, has finally received relief from the fire. The fire has been brought under control by the Indian forest officials. 300 hectare of land of the Similipal National Park is reported to have been affected by the fire.
As told by Regional Conservator of Forests Similipal, Maloth Mohan, a total of 399 fire points have been identified in the fringe areas bordering the forest and fire has been brought under control. “All of them have been attended to, and the fire is now brought under control”, said Mohan. The fire is being attributed to the abnormal rise in temperatures. However, there can be a number of reasons behind a forest fire including man-made reasons.
The forest department reportedly formed a squad of 21 ranges comprising of 1,000 personnel and 250 guards across the five divisions to closely monitor the situation. The department used 40 fire tenders and 240 blower machines to contain the fire.
Forest fires are a recurring phenomenon in the forest reserve area
The Similipal forest reserve is known to frequently witness forest fires during dry weather season. The forest remains prone to forest fires with the beginning of the summers and towards the end of autumn. This is a recurring annual phenomenon which is also usually brought under control due to short span of precipitation. The last major forest fire is reported to have happened in 2015.
The forest reserve that derives its name from ‘Simul’ (silk cotton) tree and is situated in the northern part of Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. It is home to various species of flora and fauna including 94 species of orchids and around 3,000 species of plants along with 12 species of amphibians, 29 species of reptiles, 264 species of birds and 42 species of mammals. It is also the abode of Bengal tiger and Asian elephant. Similipal and its neighbouring areas spanning across 5,569 sq km, were declared a biosphere reserve by the central government on June 22, 1994. It lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghat.
There can be several factors resulting in forest fires including natural causes like lightening and rising temperatures. However, forest officials attribute most of the forest fires to man-made causes. Sometimes fire ignited by hunters and poachers to divert wild animals also reportedly leads to forest fire as they generally do not douse the fire. In many cases villagers set dry leaves on fire to clear the ground for collecting mahua flowers. The villagers are said to believe that burning patches of sal trees will result in better growth after replantation.
Various causes of forest fires
Generally, forest fires are doused by natural rains. But there are various ways in which forest fires can be avoided. These include predicting fire-prone days, ensuring community participation, clearing the dried biomass and clampdown on poachers. Forest fire lines also help in preventing the fire from spreading. These the strips which are cleared of vegetation and help in breaking the continuity of the fire.