STR to make 2008 a fire free year for Simlipal

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Baripada, Apr 3 (UNI) A visitor to the Simlipal Tiger Reserve (STR) and the National Park will certainly come across thick smoke curling up from the forest fires when summer is in full force.

An aerial view at night during the period would show the hills laced with fiery outlines.

According to environmentalists and park managers, the forest ground fires in Simlipal were being triggered for a variety of reasons.

But most of the fires are caused by local adivasis and poachers. The former aims merely to facilitate gathering of food while the latter to exterminate wildlife for business purposes.

The poachers kill animals by setting fire to the forest undergrowths as the killing becomes easier for them when they are trapped within a ''ring of fire''.

On the other hand, the tribals clear the ground beneath the trees with the help of the fire to collect mahua flowers, honey,arrowroot, resin and sal seed at this time of the year.

Dry leaves that fall on the ground with the change of seasons are naturally inflammable and serve as excellent fuel for the fires. The hot sunny days with low humidity and occasional gusts of wind become an ideal conditions to stimulate the flames that spread rapidly across the forest floor.

For the first time this year, the STR authorities have deployed a large contingent of STPF numbering 716 besides members of 143 Vana Surakshya Samiti(VSS)and Eco Development Committees(EDCs).

All of them had been rigorously trained during the last two months acquainting themselves with the strategies to combat forest ground fires in Simlipal, Field Director-cum-Conservator forest, Baripada Circle R Naga Reddy said.

The fire fighting squads had been provided with a simple equipment called ''leaf scrapper'' by which they could break the fire line and prevent spread of ground fire to near areas, Reddy added.

''We have also decided to give cash incentives to those VSS and EDCs whose performances in the control and prevention of man-made forest ground fires would be adjudged as excellent,'' the Conservator said.

With such a multi-pronged strategy to combat forest ground fire, Mr Reddy said, the year 2008 would be a fire-free year in Simlipal.

Meanwhile, sources said nearly five hectares of a forest floor was razed with a man-made fire in a village located on the fringe of buffer zone in Pithabata Range of STR.

The villagers induced the ground fire to facilitate collection of Mahua flower. The fire had since been brought under control, the reserve's officials claimed.

This was the only incident of forest ground fire this year in the fringe of the buffer zone in Simlipal, park managers said. There was not a single incident of ground fire in the core area of the reserve so far, the sources said.

UNI XC-DP PL RD SW RK1250

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