Sunday, April 3, 2016


Thursday, 04 April 2013 | SUDHIR MISHRA | BALANGIR | in Bhubaneswar
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 badly.
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 maintained.
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.”

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