Baripada: Hundreds of hectares of forest land in Similipal wildlife sanctuary have been burnt to ashes due to wildfires ahead of the summer season, a report said.
Even as summer season is yet to completely set in, the wildfire is fast spreading inside the sanctuary with a sharp rise in temperature in the state. Fires are raging inside the sanctuary which includes the tiger conservation project and forested areas under the wildlife division.
The wildfire is showing no sign of abetment which is spreading from one place to another inside the sanctuary causing serious loss of vegetation, wildlife and medicinal plants inside the sanctuary.
As a result, wild animals are straying into the human habitats to save their lives. The rush of wild animals to human habitat has spread panic among the residents. The forest and fire personnel have tried all tricks in the book to douse the fire but in vain which is spreading fast in the area.
Reports said that the sanctuary is spread over 21 forest ranges under five forest divisions. The fire has been spreading in seven patches of reserve forests under Chandanchaturi, Digdiga, Dukura, Podadiha, Thakurmunda, Barehipani and Astakuan forest ranges of the sanctuary.
Hundreds of hectare of forest land have been destroyed in the wildfire in the Anantapur and Balinala jungles under Podadiha forest range to the south of the sanctuary, Mituani and Kendumundi jungles under Thakurmunda forest range to the north, Bahalda jungle under Dukura forest range to the east and Netrapata jungle under Bangiriposi forest range to the west of the sanctuary.
A resident Amar Singh of Podadiha village alleged that poachers are mainly responsible for the spread of wildfire in the sanctuary. He said that poachers set fire to the dry leaves in the forest to catch animals which then spreads from one place to another causing loss of flora and fauna. Moreover, people collecting Mahua flowers are also responsible as they also set fire to the leaves while collecting the flowers.
An honorary wildlife warden Bhanumitra Acharya said that wildfire has become an annual occurrence as the inferno occurs every year after the trees shed their leaves in winter. This has resulted in serious loss of flora, fauna and medicinal plants inside the sanctuary, he said.
Residents Ramesh Singh, Budhia Hembram, Chaitanya Hansda, Samray Singh and Madhav Hansda alleged that the Forest department is making tall claims of disposing of the dry leaves to check wildfire but it is occurring every year mainly due to their negligence.
When contacted, Jagnyadatt Pati, deputy director, Similipal tiger conservation project, said, “Serious efforts are being made to douse the fire with the involvement of forest officials, members of Vana Surakshya Samiti, villagers and local public representatives.”