Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday, March 2, took cognisance of reports of the forest fire that has been raging for the past ten days in Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha's Mayubhanj district. In a tweet, he stated that he had ordered officials to take immediate action and report to him.
According to Odisha TV, the state's forest department has been unable to get the fire-situation under control. As per the report, the fire has been increasing in magnitude and has currently spread across eight areas out of the 20 ranges of the tiger reserve which is the country's largest biosphere reserve.
"The jungle is burning and we are helpless. Many medicinal plants have been reduced to ashes. Many wildlife species, including endangered and scarce ones, have perished in the wildfire," one of the locals said.
Several media reports have alleged that the fire could have been set by locals to poach wild animals. The forest department officials have formed a squad for each of the 21 ranges across five divisions – North and South STR (Wildlife) besides Baripada, Rairangpur and Karanjia (Territorial) to carry out the fire fighting operations.
Similipal is a national park and tiger reserve covering an area of 2,750 sq km. It's known for its tiger and elephant population. UNESCO had added the national park to its list of Biosphere Reserves back in 2009.