ulaunch sheds light on the Simlipal Biosphere Reserve in Odisha that has been engulfed within the flames of fire for the past 16 days.

What is a Biosphere Reserve?

UNESCO has defined Biosphere as the ‘learning places for sustainable​ development. Biosphere reserves promote solutions for the effective monitoring and conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
Currently, there are around 714 biosphere reserves in 129  countries, including 21 transboundary sites, that belong to the World Network of Biosphere​  Reserve.

What is a Biosphere Reserve?
What is a Biosphere Reserve?

What is Simlipal famous for?

Simlipal is a tiger biosphere reserve located in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. It attained its name from the Simul tree (Cotton tree) which is one of the main species present in the reserve. The biosphere has been ranked second in Asia in terms of area, covering over 2,750 sq. Km, sheltering over 1,400 species of flora and fauna combined. It is also known for its tiger and elephant inhabitance. The​  Government of India declared Simlipal to be a biosphere reserve​ in 1994 and​ UNESCO added the national park to its list of biosphere reserves​ in 2009.​

What happened at Simlipal?

Reportedly, 16 days ago, a forest fire broke out in various parts of the reserve causing a huge number of casualties in the area as well the places in closer proximity of the vicinity. According to Maloth Mohan, who is the regional conservator of the Simlipal forest, a total of 339 fire points were identified in the outskirts of the forest.

Simlipal Fire - Biosphere Reserve up in flames
Simlipal Fire – Biosphere Reserve up in flames
Image Source

What caused the event?

The Source of fire is not yet determined but the forest is vulnerable to fire, especially in the summer season as Simlipal houses several deciduous vegetation that shed leaves in Autumn. Those leaves are prone to lightning and hot temperature which causes forest fire, according to the data, 8 out of 21 ranges are up in flames.

Reception and Aftermath

The state government claimed that there was no loss of life in the reserve, However, it was not clear from a statement issued by the chief minister’s office what the authorities meant “no loss of life” of humans or animals. Local people said that large animals such as tigers, elephants, deer and bears could escape the blaze by shifting to unaffected areas, but reptiles died and many valuable trees including medicinal plants are destroyed in the fire.

Union MSME minister Pratap Sarangi tweeted: “Similipal is burning and it’s not a good sign for Asia. Mayurbhanj needs national and international’s media attention as its cause is genuine. Sad, not any leading national media is covering the story of Similipal since the fire broke a week ago.”

Forest Fire activities in India

Forest Fires in India
Forest Fires in India
Image Source

According to a report from the Forest Survey of India, Forest fires are a regular phenomenon in our country often observed during the fire season. A number of 37,059 fires were detected in the year 2018 using MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer) sensor data. Every year large areas of forests are affected by fires of varying intensity and extent. Based on the forest inventory records, 54.40% of forests in India are exposed to occasional fires, 7.49% to moderately frequent fires and 2.405 to high incidence levels while 35.71% of India’s forests have not yet been exposed to fires of any real significance.

Things to ponder upon

Forest fires have been increasing dramatically, as global warming is leading to longer, harsher droughts and more extreme weather events. The smoke and carbon released into the atmosphere from these fires also act to accelerate further warming and temperature rise. It’s vital these fires and the wider climate crisis are managed to avoid the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters happening around the world. Thus, either government i.e central and state both should take immediate steps to abate these calamities to a possible extent.

Read about Investment Ventures that are tackling Climate Change.

Researched and Written by Ifzan Malik and Anupriya Pandey, Team ulaunch.

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