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Massive fire threatens to cause colossal damage to Similipal Biosphere

Published: 8th Mar, 2021


The fire that broke out in isolated places of Similipal in Mayurbhanj district in the first week of February has spread to eight forest ranges and is raging.


What is Simlipal Biosphere?

  • Simlipal lies within two biogeographical regions:
    • the Mahanadian east coastal region of the Oriental realm
    • the Chhotanagpur biotic province of the Deccan peninsular zone
  • Volcanic sedimentary rocks are aligned in three concentric rings and accentuate the area’s geologic formations. 
  • The highest peak in the Similipal hill range is Khairiburu (1,168 metres).
  • Numerous waterfalls and perennial streams flow into major rivers, such as the Budhabalang, Baitarani and Subarnarekha
  • The biosphere reserve has the largest zone of Sal in all of India
  • Panthera tigris (Royal Bengal Tiger) and Elephas maximus (Asiatic Elephant) have both been observed within the Similipal Biosphere Reserve.
  • Two tribes, the Erenga Kharias and the Mankirdias, inhabit the reserve’s forests and practise traditional agricultural activities.
  • Other dominant tribes include the Ho, Gonda and Munda, among others.

Causes of forest fire in Simlipal

  • Environmental causes are largely related to climatic conditions such as temperature, wind speed and direction, level of moisture in soil and atmosphere and duration of dry spells.
  • Other natural causes are the friction of bamboos swaying due to high wind velocity and rolling stones that result in sparks setting off fires in highly inflammable leaf litter on the forest floor.
  • Human related causes result from human activity as well as methods of forest management.  These can be intentional or unintentional, for example:
    • graziers and gatherers of various forest products starting small fires to obtain good grazing grass as well as to facilitate gathering of minor forest produce like flowers of Madhuca indica and leaves of Diospyros melanoxylon
    • the centuries old practice of shifting cultivation (especially in the North-Eastern region of India and inparts of the States of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh)
    • the use of fires by villagers to ward off wild animals
    • fires lit intentionally by people living around forests for recreation
    • fires started accidentally by careless visitors to forests who discard cigarette butts

Types of Forest Fire

There are two types of forest fire:

  • Surface Fire- A forest fire may burn primarily as a surface fire, spreading along the ground as the surface litter (senescent leaves and twigs and dry grasses etc) on the forest floor and is engulfed by the spreading flames.
  • Crown Fire- The other type of forest fire is a crown fire in which the crown of trees and shrubs burn, often sustained by a surface fire.
    • A crown fire is particularly very dangerous in a coniferous forest because resinous material given off burning logs burn furiously.
    • On hill slopes, if the fire starts downhill, it spreads up fast as heated air adjacent to a slope tends to flow up the slope spreading flames along with it. If the fire starts uphill, there is less likelihood of it spreading downwards.

Strategies to control Forest Fire

  • Fire line
  • Burning out
  • Backburn
  • Flanking
  • Hot Spotting
  • Knock Down
  • Cold trailing
  • Aerial attack
  • Fireline explosives

Verifying, please be patient.

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