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Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP has been on fire for nearly three days

The fire, which started in some isolated pockets of the tiger reserve situated in the Umaria district, has since engulfed large parts of the area and is spreading to nearly six forest ranges, including all three tourist zones of Tala, Magdhi, and Khitauli. Our Special Correspondent reports.

Wildfire rages in parts of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve-VPN
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Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, First Published Mar 31, 2021, 5:28 PM IST
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It's been nearly three days since a wildfire broke out at Madhya Pradesh's Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, some 500 kilometres from the state capital Bhopal. 

The fire, which started in some isolated pockets of the tiger reserve situated in the Umaria district, has since engulfed large parts of the area and is spreading to nearly six forest ranges, including all three tourist zones of Tala, Magdhi, and Khitauli.

As the fire spreads, the forest department has put its entire staff on duty to defuse it at the earliest. 

Not just the forest department, but environmentalists and locals too have gathered together to control the fire. 

Besides this, the Umaria district collector and his team also reached the tiger reserve to defuse it on Wednesday morning while fire brigades have been at work since Monday. 

On Tuesday, locals, including the tourist guides for whom the tiger reserve is the only source of income, had reached the park post-midnight to join the fire control operation.

According to a local source in Bandhavgarh, the fire possibly broke out on Sunday night and was spotted on Monday. The source said, "Huge smoke was spotted on Monday afternoon. The chances are that the fire broke out on Sunday night itself and started spreading on Monday. It is also being said that some locals possibly started the fire."

The wildfire, which started from Khitauli, has spread to six areas, including Panpatha, Tala, and Manpur. 

"Most of the fire is in non-tourist zones. It started from Khitauli, which has many bamboos but has spread to other areas as well. The fire is mostly in non-tourist and buffer zones. The intersection point of Tala and Magdhi has also seen massive fire," said the source.

Furthermore, the source said that "though reptile and birds may have largely been affected, there is no news on any damage to mammals has been received so far".

Meanwhile, efforts were made to contact BTR's Field Director, Wincent Rahim. However, the officer was unavailable at the time of filing this report.

Bandhavgarh is home to 104 Royal Bengal tigers and is the fourth most populated tiger reserve. The reserve, spread over 105 square kilometres, is also home to other endangered species such as Leopard, Dhole (wild dogs), vultures, Gaur and Chital, among others. Bandhavgarh was notified as a national park in 1968 and became a tiger reserve in 1993.

Tourism continues amidst fire

Despite the wildfire in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, tourism activities have continued in the park. According to a source, safaris were conducted on Monday and Tuesday in Tala and Magdhi zones. However, all safaris have been put on hold in the Khitauli zone.

'No smoke clouds were seen on Wednesday'

The source further revealed that tremendous efforts to control the fire are underway in the tiger reserve. "Compared to the previous days, no smoke clouds were noticed on Wednesday. Not completely, but there has been some control over the fire. However, it will still take enough time to douse the fire completely," the source said.

Reason for the fire still unknown

Though there is no official statement regarding the fire, a local source revealed that it could have been put by people who often burn the fallen Sal leaves. 

The source said that there is also a possibility that the fire could have been out on blaze due to Holika Dahan, which took place on Sunday night and then spread through the forests.

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