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Odisha govt says forest fires totally contained and controlled

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Bhubaneswar, Mar 15: The Odisha government on Sunday claimed that the forest fire situation in the state is "totally contained and controlled" while the opposition BJP alleged that the forest department was responsible for the widespread wildfire in different jungles.

The state government's Forest Fire Task Force chief Dr Sandeep Tripathy said the forest fire situation across Odisha including Similipal National Park as on Sunday is "totally contained and controlled".

Odisha govt says forest fires totally contained and controlled

He said: "There is no continuous fire in the state as of now. This has been possible because of immediate and proactive steps taken by the government to check and control forest fire in the state and massive inhibited support of local communities who have come all out and assisted the forest officials in fire extinguishing in the field".

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On the forest fire incident at Barunei hills near Khurda town, about 25 km from Bhubaneswar, Tripathy said that the fire was spotted at about 12 noon and due to immediate intervention, the inferno was doused within some hours.

"No trees were affected at Barunei and only ground fire was seen which had been extinguished at 2 pm," Tripathy said.

However, considering that the major fire season is still left and fire activity increases with the rise in the temperature after the onset of summer season, the state government has asked the field officials to be on full alert to prevent any proliferation of fire in their areas.

The response of field officials is more than 95 per cent. As of now as per Forest Survey of India Alerts information, there is no ongoing continuous fire point in the state, Tripathy said, adding that the augmented manpower and infrastructure is effectively deployed in the field to continue mitigating prevailing fire situation effectively, particularly in identified vulnerable areas and hot spots.

Eight ODRAF teams with 25 members along with Fire Officials are being actively engaged in dousing forest fire along with forest staff, he said, adding that the Central Team after their visit to Simlipal National Park and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday toured Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary.

The central team is scheduled to meet the state government oficials on Monday, Tripathy informed.

Meanwhile, BJP's Sambalpur MLA and former minister JN Mishra, who led a 13-member party legislature team to Similipal National Park for verification of ground reality said: "During our visit, we found two major fires at Joranda and Chahala range inside Similipal National Park, one of the biggest biosphere in Asia."

Rejecting the state government's allegation that the local people set fire in forests in order to clear bushes for collection of Mahua flower and Kendu leaves, the BJP delegation said: "There is absolutely no coordination between the local people and forest department. The people are rather unhappy over the activities of forest department."

Mishra claimed that the local people have a major role in detection and dousing of the forest fire and alleged that the officers do not involve local people in the forest protection, regeneration of forests and other activities. He said unless the local people are not taken into confidence, one cannot extinguish fire in forests.

The BJP delegation said that they would raise the issue in the Assembly. They also alleged that they could not find water bodies inside the forests which were supposed to be created for animals to drink water during the summer.

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    "We doubt huge corruption in utilisation of both the central and state government funds in forests," Mishra alleged.

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