Khajuripada: The rise in raging forest fires has thrown life out of gear in villages under Khajuripada forest range in Kandhamal district. Dense forests at many places have been on fire for the last few days.
The forest department however is sitting idle and is unaware of the issue, said locals of Arapaju, Mundabadi, Mardeju, Adasipada, Garakumbha, Dalapada, Chadapaju, Nagleju, Gadapadar, Epriguda, Netrikhol, Jenabali, Bilabadi and Ranipathar villages. Locals are facing a tough time due to forest fires. A dense forest covering these villages is in fire for the last few days, but nothing is being done, said villagers.
The district, surrounded by mountains from all sides, is a hub of many medicinal shrubs. These plants include valuable trees like sal, teak and shishum and are on the verge of extinction due to forest fires. Besides, the fires also pose a major threat to wild animals and birds. Valuable forest produce is also being gutted.
After learning of the incident, Sudurkumpa forest range officials along with a firefighting squad were seen dousing the flames. Meanwhile, locals complained that other regions of Pirikudi panchayat, Khajuripada, adasipada, Dalapada and Nuagaon panchayat were under threat of a forest fire that was spreading towards the villages.
No foresters and rangers have still visited these places to take stock of the situation, locals alleged, adding that the officials were unaware that the fire has reached near the national highway. A retired government employee accused the forest officials of dereliction of duty.
When contacted, Khajuripada section forester Birendra Patnaik said they were dousing the flames for the last few days and said the fires were being set by villagers.