Natural Disasters

Why are fires raging in Similipal?

The fires seem to be both, a natural disaster and human-made mishap, according to experts

By Adithyan PC
Published: Wednesday 10 March 2021

The fires raging over 2,750 kilometres in Odisha’s Similipal National Park and Tiger Reserve seem to be both, a natural disaster and human-made mishap, according to experts.

Around 90 per cent of forest fires were human-made, experts said. The probable reason for the fires could be a dry summer and carelessness by people who had been hunting and collecting Mahuli flowers.

Similipal has a unique microclimate: It sees occasional afternoon showers during the summer months that act as natural fire controllers. But some years, where dry spells last for more than two-three weeks, can be a disaster for the region.

Another reason for the fires is the high daytime temperature of around 40 degree Celsius in Similipal in the past two weeks. Odisha came top in the list of forest fire incidents with 23,325 fire spots since March 1, 2021, according to the Forest Survey of India’s fire alerts system- SNPP.

Similipal is home to 1,076 vascular plants, 93 species of orchids, 400 medicinal plants and many wildlife species. The fires are causing irreversible damage to the forest and its inhabitants.

Its countless ground fauna, including monitor lizards, mongooses, snakes and frogs are reduced to ashes in the blink of an eye. Millions of seedlings and seeds, along with medicinal plants, shrubs, creepers and trees that take decades to grow, are gone. 

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