BALASORE: The Balasore forest division is finding it tough to contain fire in different parts of Kuldiha sanctuary for the last couple of days due to scorching heat. Forest personnel are making all efforts to put out the fire which is suspected to be started by the poachers.
Sources said the fire in the sanctuary has engulfed vast areas endangering the life of the wild animals inhabiting the sprawling forests. The fire has so far destroyed an area of over 100 hectares (ha). Kuldiha is spread over an area of 272.75 sq km.
The incidents of sporadic fire in the protected forest have been reported at different places in Swarnachuda hill besides in Hatikhulia, Balianal, Tiakata and Ambajhara. The fire fighting teams engaged to put out the fire are facing immense difficulties to go close to the patches due to high temperature during day time.
Sources said some poachers had lit the fire a day before Bisuva Sankranti so that the animals would come out of their habitation and they could kill them as part of their annual ritual of Akhanda Sikar (ceremonial mass hunting). Though the forest staff could manage to prevent the entry of poachers, they failed to contain the fire.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Harsabardhan Udgata said around 100 forest personnel, local volunteers, trained youths and Sabuja Sathi have been engaged to put out the fire. “While they have brought the fire under control in Swarnachuda hill areas, efforts are on to contain the fire in Hatikhulia and Balianal areas,” he said.
Although the locals alleged that the tribals have been successful in bringing burnt animals from the forest areas and distributing it among themselves to mark Sankranti, officials denied the allegations.
The DFO, however, claimed that they had not come across death of any animals and reptiles. He said the forest guards and volunteers have been asked to generate awareness in the forest side villages about the ill effects of the fire. “They used to light fire to clean the floor so that they can easily collect mahua flower,” he added.