Odisha set to prevent wildfires this year

A year after the Similipal Tiger Reserve fire, the state is preparing district-level action plans to prevent forest fires

Bhubaneshwar: The Forest Department is introducing policies to  ensure that a repeat of the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) fire that had grabbed national headlines, does not take place.

District-level action plans have been laid out for 23 districts and GPS mapping of vulnerable points has been conducted.  The State Government has adopted the Forest Fire Free (3F) strategy this year for every panchayat and emphasis is on maintaining fire lines and reaching out to fringe villages around forests.

The department has made a provision of around `30 crore from State resources and CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) funds for this, as per the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Sisir Kumar Ratho.

STR had faced manpower problems due to a slash in funding under Project Tiger for 2021-22 fiscal and the national park reported 428 fire points between January 1 and March 4 last year. The Centre under the scheme sanctioned only Rs 3.54 crore against the proposed estimates of `16.04 crore for Similipal in 2021-22. 

As per statistics of Forest Survey of India (FSI), the State has, so far, reported around 729 forest fires since January 1, about 1,300 less than the corresponding period of 2021. The PCCF said situation is well within control as forest fire incidents have not crossed the 1,000 threshold this season.

However, the STR management is leaving nothing to chance. More than 2,000 firelines have already been created. Also, around 700 fringe villages have been identified in Baripada, Karanjia and Rairangpur divisions where awareness drives are being carried out to tackle the menace. 

Around 150 fire squads, 550 protection assistants and 200 field staff of the department have been mobilised while 400 fire blowers have been kept in readiness to tackle forest fires in the reserve, according to the Deputy Director, Sai Kiran.