Baripada town near Odisha’s Similipal Tiger Reserve recorded India’s highest temperature of 44.6 degrees Celsius March 31, 2021, in another indication of increasing global warming. Baripada had recorded 39.4°C February 28 this year. HR Biswas, the director of the India Metrological Department (IMD), Odisha said “This is the first time that we have recorded the country’s highest temperature in Baripada. Around 46 fresh fire incidents within two to three days in many parts of Similipal Tiger Reserve may be one of the reasons for the rise in temperatures in Baripada in March this year. Baripada’s temperature was four degrees Celsius above normal, forcing people to stay indoors.”
The coal town of Talcher was the second-hottest place in Odisha at 42.7°C. Talcher is ranked as the 165th most-polluted city of the world, according to the World Air Quality Report 2020 prepared by IQAir, a Swiss organisation. The report was released in March this year. The IMD issued heat wave warnings on March 31 for a week for 10 districts. These included Cuttack, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Kalahandi, Balangir, Malkangiri, Bargarh, Sonepur, Nuapada and Boudh, according to Biswas.
Odisha’s forest minister told the assembly March 30 that over 18,500,748 trees had been felled in the state for highway widening, industries, plants and other purposes in the past 11 years. Some 2,983,573 saplings had been planted in the state as a compensation for the loss at the cost of Rs 661,702,313. In many areas, the government planted water guzzling and fire-prone eucalyptus trees after felling native trees like Sal, Mahuli, Asan, Karang, Arjun, jackfruit and others. The government claims to have planted 2,983,573 trees in the past 11 years. However, the chances of their having survived is doubtful – an environmentalist and the vice-president of the Krusak Sabha, said. The denudation of green cover was one of the reasons behind the rising of temperatures in Odisha in March this year.
The rate of tree-felling in Odisha was alarming and urgent steps needed to be taken to reverse the trend. There would be further disintegration of the local climate, deterioration of soil fertility and reduced food-crop production due to it.