I am a journalist, working as Balangir correspondent of the English daily "The Pioneer" and “The Industry and Mines Observer”, an English fortnightly magazine published from Bhubneshwar. I was awarded the Trophy for "Excellence in Journalism" by noted Columnist Sri Shivaji Sarkar,in the presence of Editor in Chief -of The Pioneer,Dr Chandan Mitra ,Editor of The Industry and Mines Observer (IMO) Sri Sirish Mohanty on June19,2012.
Friday, April 3, 2015
MAHUL SEASON: MANMADE FIRES GULP DOWN HUGE FORESTS Thursday, 04 April 2013 | SUDHIR MISHRA | BALANGIR | in Bhubaneswar
I had covered this story two years ago(inApril 2013) In The Pioneer .Posting here for perusal ofall SudhirMishra
SEASON: MANMADE FIRES GULP DOWN HUGE FORESTS
Even as the natural
falling of Mahua flower in the KBK and other districts of western Odisha has
started bringing cheer for millions of rural poor and tribal people who earn
their subsistence for a minimum four months by collecting it during the lean
period, yet the phenomenon has posed a grave threat to the forest properties by
causing fire. And often the fire is man-made.
As this year the Mahua flower has started falling since the first week
of March, the collectors set fire to the leaves gathered around the trees. The
fire rapidly spreads towards the forest and gulps huge patches, consequently
bringing irreparable loss to forest resources.
“People burn the leaves to collect Mahul. The leaves after having been
reduced to ashes help the people collect Mahul as it becomes visible.
Since the forest is left unattended, the fire spreads and keeps catching
more and more areas. A few days ago, there was fire in Kusha jungle. At
Dangarmunda, I also saw fire in Dabkani jungle. These forests were set ablaze
by the Mahul collectors,” said a villager at a meeting organised to observe the
World Forestry Day on March 21 last here.
In a majority of area in Balangir district, mostly dry deciduous forests
are found. The deciduous trees usually shed their leaves by February. Forest
fire usually occurs between second week of March and second week of April. Once
the fire breaks out, it spreads very rapidly and burns whatever comes in its
way, be it plant, animal or insect, pointed out a civil society activist.
First of all, the fire affects the local poor people who
survive by collecting fruits, leaves and other non-timber forest
produces (NTFPs). The worst affected are the Vaidyas, who collect creepers,
bushes, small plant roots, and tubers, which are used for preparation of
medicines, observed an expert on environment Sushil Tripathy.
Slow moving reptiles, lizards, colourful spiders and many more
arthropods are dwindling. The birds which prefer to lay eggs on ground are
losing their habitat along with rapidly reducing population. The red vultures
are on the verge of extinction due the ground fire. They prefer to lay eggs on
ground at the hill top. As the forest fire spreads to the hill top, it damages
everything since nobody goes to douse it, Tripathy opined.
“In the forest fire, the eco friendly earth worms are lost forever.
Moreover, those insects which help to create soil humus, become extinct. Due to
absence of the insects, soil
creation process which most cumbersome and time taking is affected
As the top soil is burnt and lost, the water absorption capacity of soil
declines resulting in rain water run-off, heavy soil erosion and flood. The
depletion of ground water level is a cause of concern for all. The forest fire
has further accentuated the desertification process in the district,” Tripathy
The animals also suffer a lot. Many of them perish and those which
manage to escape constantly make forays into the nearby villages and damage
their paddy and other crops. This also gives rise to man-animal conflict often
leading to the death of the animals, he added.
“We should prepare ourselves to tackle forest fire in village level. We
must inform the forest officials to douse the fire. Moreover, the village youth
should be involved in forest protection and a cadre of youth should be
developed to deal with forest fire and forest protection,” asserted Kulamani
Sahu of the District Forestry Forum.
Besides this, the other reasons for occurrences of forest fire are
leaving the burning remnant of Bidi/Hukkah by the people visiting forest.
Timber mafia also triggers forest fire to exploit the
situation. Lack of adequate training to local people and equipment do
deal with adverse situation also accentuates the problem, he added.
When asked, Balangir DFO Abhiram Naik said, “To save forests from fire,
five protection squads have been formed in the Balangir forest division. So
far, 11cases have been reported in the district. When we have information of
fire, we immediately dispatch a team to douse the fire.
However, there has not been any assessment of loss due to forest fire in
the forests here. We gave dresses and boots to walk in fire and scooper. We are
also developing fire line around the forests.”