Dhenkanal: With summer drawing near and temperature rising in the state, the fear of wildfire has come back to haunt the forest officials and environmentalists, a report said.
In its bid to check the spread of wildfire during summer, the district forest department has included seven reserve forests in red zone, the report read.
It is apprehended that the temperature might cross 40°C by March end which is likely to result in wildfires. As part of countermeasures, the forest department has shortlisted seven reserve jungles vulnerable to forest fire.
Moreover, the officials have prepared a blueprint for engaging drones to keep a watch on the forests prone to fire. The department is mobilising every resource to ensure that the forest areas in the district do not see a recurrence of last year’s inferno.
The fear assumes significance as Odisha reported 51,968 forest fires from November 2020 to June 2021. The number was also the highest in the country for the period.
The startling facts emerged from a report prepared by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
Reports said that eight forest ranges – the Kamakhyanagar east and west ranges, Ranjagad reserve forest, Anantapur reserve forest under Mahabirod range, Kandhra reserve forest, Bampha reserve forest, Nandinia reserve forest under Hindol range, Kapilash reserve forest under Kapilash range and the Saptasajya reserve forest under Sadar forest range – catch fire as soon as summer starts.
The forest department has earmarked 17 reserve forest areas under the above mentioned forest ranges as highly sensitive areas. Among them, seven reserve forests have been included in the red zone.
Similarly, 10 jungles like Sunajhari, Maulabhanja, Sundarakhola, Aswakhola, Matiamunda, and the forest on the fringes of Talcher have been included in pink zones.
This apart, forest officials are also keeping an eye on 152 villages adjoining these 17 reserve forests as fire is likely to spread to these villages. Last year, many houses were burnt due to spread of fire from these jungles.
This year, the district administration and forest department have already started preparing to avoid the loss arising out of forest fire. District Collector Saroj Kumar Sethi has directed to prepare a blueprint to contain forest fire.
The forest officials have started conducting awareness drives in every village through public address systems.
One dedicated vehicle has been engaged in every zone while the forests vulnerable to wildfire are under watch through the use of satellites.
The forest officials are also taking the help of three drone cameras to collect information on wildlife and biological diversity in Kapilash sanctuary. As many as 58 blowers costing Rs 51,000 each have been purchased to contain forest fire.
When contacted, Divisional Forest Officer Prakash Chand Gogineni said a special action plan has been prepared to contain wildfire this year. Seven reserve forests have been kept in the red zone and 10 under pink zones.
Preparations have started comprising forest and fire personnel to contain wildfire.
Notably, 132 places in Anantpur reserve forest, 121 in Ranjagad, 106 in Kandhra, 40 in Kapilash, 28 in Bampha, 25 in Nandinia and 27 in Saptasajya jungles witnessed large scale wildfire in 2021. The phenomenon caused loss of forest cover on 536 hectare of land.
The state government grant of Rs 70 lakh available to contain wildfire is like a drop in the ocean. The grant is quite low to carry out the requisite exercise of containing the fire which continues for a period of three months.