Bhubaneswar, Mar 13 (PTI) Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan met Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav in New Delhi on Monday, urging him for immediate action on forest fires in Odisha.

Pradhan, who is a Lok Sabha MP from Odisha, expressed deep concern over rising incidents of forest fire in the state, and urged Yadav to set up an empowered committee to chalk out a long-term action plan on the issue.

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In a letter to Yadav, he said though the state forest and fire services departments have been provided with equipment to deal with forest fires, it is reported that most personnel have not received training on their usage.

"Usage of helicopters and airborne methods for dousing the forest fires needs to be deployed in some parts as most of these forest areas are still inaccessible to fire vans on ground," he said.

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"We need to assess the damage to forest land, flora and fauna, as well as communities dependent on forests for their livelihood and take suitable remedies in this regard," he added.

An empowered committee with representatives of the central and state forest departments, environmentalists, and forest conservationists was needed for formulating a long-term action plan for preventing future forest fires in Odisha, Pradhan said.

Odisha has 51,619 sq km of forest cover and a significant part of it is categorised as extremely fire-prone, very highly fire-prone and highly fire-prone, he said.

Pradhan said a prolonged dry spell since October last year and the accumulation of inflammable materials such as dry leaves has led to large-scale forest fires across the state.

"Reportedly, 35 per cent of all forest fires in the country are being reported from Odisha," he said in the letter.

Meanwhile, Odisha's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Debidutta Biswal said most of the forest fire incidents in the state were "manmade".

"The poachers set fire to forests to hunt wild animals," Biswal said.

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