BARIPADA: As it fights the wildlfire, Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR)’s woes are compounded by large-scale vacancies across the vertical, leaving the territorial and wildlife divisions in Mayurbhanj district limping.
The summer is still a long way to go and the challenge could multiply with the Akhand Shikar season to follow.
During Pana Sankranti in Chaitra month in Odia calendar, tribals head out for mass hunting. This is when STR management could find itself in trouble with twin challenges of forest fire and poaching staring at it.
Currently, severe shortage of protection staff in different sections are posing a hurdle for the Forest department in the district where 270 out of 854 posts (sanctioned strength) are lying vacant since December last year.
The vacancies are in offices of Regional Chief Conservator of Forests, Baripda, Similipal South, Similipal North along with
Baripada, Karanjia and Rairangpur territorial divisions. Sources reveal that at least six deputy ranger posts out of 30 sanctioned positions are lying vacant in Similipal South, Similipal North, Baripada and Karanjia divisions.
Against the sanctioned posts of 81 in the tiger protection force, vacancy stands at 27.
Foresters and forest guards, the eyes and ears of the department on the ground too are short in strength.
While 226 posts of foresters had been sanctioned by the government, about 42 posts are laying vacant in Similipal North, South, Balasore and Karanjia divisions.
As many as 195 forest guard positions against the sanctioned strength of 517 are vacant in all six divisions (including Balasore) since last year.
The vacant posts in four different sections are taking a toll on forest conservation and protection.
The protection staff crisis began after the government re-organised STR and established additional two wildlife divisions for improved protection of forest and wildlife but failed to deploy the personnel.
Baripada, Karanjia and Rairangpur are territorial divisions, while Similipal North and South are the newly established wildlife divisions.
Deputy Director, STR South JD Pati said the divisional offices have the required number of DFO and ACFs but are managing with foresters and forest guards from Karanjia and the three other wildlife divisions of the district.
Government has been apprised of the situation.
Of the sanctioned strength of 854, as many as 270 are lying vacant in divisions across the district.