The fire-prone dry kashi grass of Shidlaghatta

The fire-prone dry kashi grass of Shidlaghatta

Inviting trouble

During summer several incidents of accidental fires are reported especially in the thorny shrub forests of Shidlaghatta taluk.

Last year a forest fire in Varadanayakana Halli resulted in a great loss of wilderness and natural vegetation. Recently another forest fire incident was reported from Jaraganahalli thorny shrub forest. However, the Forest Department was quick in dousing it. The tall coarse kashi grass which grows in the wilderness in Shidlaghatta is one of the prime cause for forest fires. Because of the fire prone nature of this grass, it is often referred to as ‘problem’ grass.

In the past, the poor people used to make use of this grass in making their huts and roofs. But in recent times such huts made out of these coarse grass have become rare.

As as result, the thick gass on drying becomes subject to wild fires. A tiny spark can destroy the the forest on an entire hill.

Besides destroying valuable trees, forest fires also puts wildlife into danger. Plantations and groves of Forest Department, private farms and public property are also subjected to the vagaries of forest fires.

“Everything is useful in nature depending on how we make use of it. For instance, the kashi grass was used in the past for roofing of huts and it kept them cool in summer. But now it has been replaced by synthetic fibre and asbestos. As a result, the grass remains unused and gets dry. The loss due to fire is incalculable. Barren hills in the district have been caused because of this. However, the moment it rains, the kashi grass grows again”, says Nagaraj, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Chintamani Range.

“Forest fires are quite common from January to March. To prevent such fires, people in the rural areas should start making use of this grass. It can be used as organic fertilizers. It can also be used in cottage industry to make coarse handmade paper and cardboards used in making packing boxes. Forest fires can thus be prevented and the greenery on the hills will return and become a home for wildlife”, says Nagaraj.