BHUBANESWAR: As wild fires across the State’s jungles threaten to extract a huge ecological and economic cost, the Forest Department has decided to make extensive use of blowers this year to tackle the menace. It has directed forest divisions to procure at least 494 blowers which will be deployed across eight circles of the State.
Blowers were first put to use on a pilot basis at Similipal Tiger Reserve during 2015-2016. Its success has prompted the department to provide the equipment to both wildlife and territorial divisions.
Sources in Forest Department said the PCCF (General) office has issued directions and released funds to divisions for procurement of blowers by forming purchase committees. Each blower costs about `50,000 while a one-time maintenance cost of `11,000 is also provided.
As part of the Annual Plan of Operation (APO) 2016-17, Angul Circle will buy 77 blowers, Bhubaneswar Circle 32, Berhampur 80, Sambalpur 70, Rourkela 90, Baripada 45, Bhawanipatna and Koraput 50 each. Twelve wildlife divisions will get 90 blowers as part of the plan.
To keep a tab on the large scale destruction that the annual forest fires cause, the GIS Cell at PCCF office has a centralised server that tracks all satellite imageries generated by MODIS through the Forest Survey of India (FSI). GPS location of each fire spot is generated and SMSes are sent to DFOs on a real-time basis.
The Cell has identified forest patches on basis of fire vulnerability which are categorised as Most Vulnerable, Moderately Vulnerable and Least Vulnerable. These are colour-coded on the GPS map basing on which strategies are being drawn up.
The department, as part of the preventive measures, has formed fire fighting squads which consist of 10 members and will be given funds for tackling the wildfire. For a period of five months, these squads are given `5 lakh.
Interestingly, while forest fire is categorised as sub-surface, ground and crown fire, the local administration in Sundargarh is facing a new challenge of fire emanating from farm fields. With large heaps of straws generated after threshing, villagers are found to be setting the waste to fire. This has led to a spate of forest fire incidents in the district. Recently, on a single day, the FSI server reported 49 such incidents.
The district Collector and DFO have chalked out a plan to sensitise villagers through block offices so that they do not resort to such practices which lead to chaos as fire fighters and Forest Department field staff find it difficult to tackle the problem. At certain fire stations in the northern districts, sources said the fire stations receive 40 calls on a single day. The Collector has convened a meeting of all BDOs on March 8 to take up the sensitisation exercise.