The opposition Congress and BJP on Wednesday slammed the Odisha’s BJD government over increasing incidents of forest fires across the state during the past few weeks.
Raising concerns over the forest fires, they said the fire broke out in several forest areas across the state and the situation is alarming. However, the state government is in a deep sleep, they alleged.
Participating in an adjournment motion moved on this issue in the Assembly, BJP chief whip Mohan Charan Majhi said the state has been witnessing increasing incidents of forest fires for the last 12 days and due to such incidents, the temperature is rising and forests are also being destroyed.
The state recorded major forest fires at 153 points last Monday, which increased to 202 points on the next day, he said.
“Similipal sanctuary is also burning. Now, Odisha has recorded 656 forest fires. However, the state government is waiting for rain due to western disturbances,” the BJP MLA said.
Giving statistics of other states, he said fire broke out in 241 places in Chhattisgarh, 227 in Karnataka, 217 in Manipur, and 216 in Mizoram.
Out of 5,619 square km of forest in Odisha, 44 per cent have reported forest fires, which is the highest number of forest fires in the country, he said, noting that forest fires are man-made.
Congress legislator Santosh Singh Saluja said: “If the government fails to protect the dense forest area like Similipal, one day Odisha will be converted into a desert.”
Saluja asked the government to inform the House how many persons have been arrested in forest fire incidents till now.
In his reply, Forest and Environment Minister Pradip Kumar Amat said most of the forest fires are man-made and standard operating procedure (SOP) has been issued to prevent wildfire incidents in the state.
Fire incidents were reported at 56,606 points in 2021, of which 14,782 (26 per cent) are outside the forest areas.
This year, till March 13, forest fires reported at 22,786 points in the state, of which 4,563 (20 per cent) cases are reported from outside the forest areas and the fires have been controlled in 22,316 points, he said.
A task force has been formed and actions are being taken as per the recommendations. District collectors have been asked to prepare district-level action plans to control the forest fire cases, Amat said.
Besides, 399 fire-fighting teams have been deployed in various forest areas while a control room has been made functional round the close, the Minister added.
Dissatisfied with the Minister’s reply in the issue, BJP members staged a walk out from the House.