Bhubaneswar, Mar 15 (PTI) Opposition BJP on Wednesday staged a walkout from the Assembly as Odisha Forest minister claimed that the state government has doused 98 per cent of fire incidents in forests and is committed to ensure protection of flora and fauna in different jungles.

The state government's claim was made by Forest, Environment and Climate Change Minister P K Amat who was participating in a debate on admissibility of an adjournment motion notice on the forest fire issue. The matter was discussed as Odisha tops the list of forest fire incidents in the country.

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Stating that as many as 22,787 hectares of land including forest were hit by forest fire by March 13, 2023, the minister said the forest officials have been able to douse jungle blaze in 98 per cent of places. He said of the 22,787 hectares of land, 4,563 hectares was not forest area which is 20 per cent of the total area affected by forest fire.

The minister further said that there was no rainfall since October last year and forest fire was mosly "man-made." Dry leaves dropping during the spring season added to the forest fire, he said, adding that the people set fire in jungle to collect non-timber forest produce like Mahua flower, Sal seeds and for poaching.

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The government has made elaborate arrangement to create awareness among people not to set forest on fire, he said.

The minister said that the major trees and wildlife are secured in the forest despite fire because of the nature of the jungle in the state. "Here in Odisha, there is no underground fire or the crown fire (fire on top portion of forests).

The minister at the same time blamed the BJP led Central government for deducting funds under FPM (Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme) spent on fighting forest fire. While the state should receive Rs 72 crore in five years from 2018-2022-23, Odisha received only 26.3 crore during the period. "Despite fund cuts, we have been able to douse 98 per cent of forest fire," Amat claimed which irked the BJP members.

BJP members Mohan Majhi and Bhaskar Madehi and Mukesh Mahaling accused the state government of telling lies in the House. "Had the department doused 98 per cent of fire, how the fire incidents take place almost on daily basis," Mahaling said.

Congress MLA Suresh Routray alleged that there is no effort from the government to douse the forest fire which is evident from the Forest Survey of India data. There is no use of technology to control the forest inferno.

The minister, however, said that the state government has set up a special technical cell and constituted a task force as part of efforts to extinguish the forest fires. As per their recommendation, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been issued by the government to control forest fires in different areas, he said.

Besides, the minister said action plans have been drawn up at the district level to contain forest fires. A control room is also functioning round-the-clock.

Amat said 339 teams deployed for extinguishing forest fires have been provided with vehicles, fire blowers and safety equipment.

Protesting the minister's reply, the opposition BJP legislators staged a walkout.

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