Fire breakout at Simplipal Forset started last week of March has already damaged one-third of the work.
After more than10 days of the fire, the state Forest Department has brought the situation under control. Though the devastating fire broke out in the wilds of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), India’s largest biosphere reserves in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district has already caused a serious and ecological disaster.
The fire spread gutted eight out of the 21 ranges of the Similipal forest division. Reports say that the fire has reached and razed Anandapur, Khandachira and Balinal hills under Podadiha Forest Range in the southern part of the reserve. The flame also engulfed Mituani and Kendumundi forests under the Thakurmunda range of the reserve.
On Tuesday the Princess of the erstwhile royal family of Mayurbhanj, Akshita Bhanj Deo on Twitter expressed her concern over the lackadaisical attitude of the National media over a serious environmental and ecological disaster in Odisha.
“Apart from a few State media, no national media is covering the news on how Asia’s second-largest biosphere reserve has been continuously burning for the past several days,” she said.
After her’s and few more tweets of social activists from the region brought some attention of National Media.
Why the Simplipal Forest is Important
The biosphere reserve has the largest zone of Sal in all of India. Besides, the tropical monsoon climate provides ideal circumstances for the development of distinctive biodiversity, highlighted by 1,076 species of vascular plants. Among them are 93 species of orchids, 300 species of medicinal plants and 52 species of endangered flora. Two endemic Orchid species are Eria meghasaniensis and Tainia hookeriana. Other noteworthy flora species include Callicarpa arborea (a species of beautyberry), Bombax ceiba (Cotton tree) and Madhuca longifolia (Mahua).
Altogether, the biosphere reserve is home to 42 mammal species, 264 bird species, 39 reptile species and 12 amphibian species. Moreover, approximately 52 fauna species are endangered. Paradoxus jorandensis is an example of a valuable and endemic fauna species within the area. Also, Panthera tigris tigris (Royal Bengal Tiger) and Elephas maximus (Asiatic Elephant) have both been observed within the Similipal Biosphere Reserve.
The government—both the states and the Centre—need to view this as a warning of the consequences of climate change and mount mitigation efforts urgently. With the world now on the verge of running out of time to meaningfully act to limit global warming to a lower bound, such disasters will keep recurring with devastating consequences not just for flora and fauna, but humans as well. There have been serious losses of forests that are the most effective carbon sinks, in India as well as elsewhere in the world. If countries don’t work on reducing emissions, expect more Californias and Simlipals.