After Nagarahole fires, stress on buying water to prevent wildfires

After Nagarahole fires, stress on buying water to prevent wildfires

After two major forest fires flared up recently at the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve (NTR) due to botched-up firelines, staffers of two prime tiger reserves of Karnataka – Bandipur and Nagarahole – are drawing up plans to prevent fire accidents in the summer. This includes buying water and hiring more staff.

The first major fire was on January 23 in DB Kuppe range of NTR where things went out of control while making firelines, which are man-made fires to get rid of combustible material like grass to prevent the progress of a wildfire. The other one was on January 26 in Hunsur and Bedkoli range, where attempts to create firelines went awry. In the first incident, the forest staff reported that just over an acre was gutted. In the second, the staffers opine that around 60 acres were burnt. Both incidents showed up on NASA images. But conservationists dispute the claims. “Satellites do not pick data when there is a fire on a mere one or two acres,” said a conservationist.

K M Chinnappa, president Wildlife First blames the fire on the forest department’s negligence. “They call it ground fire, but here too, many young animals die. The firelines have not been laid properly. They started controlling fire when there were strong winds, which did more damage,” he said.

Another conservationist added that the forest department was covering up its failure in by pointing at a water crisis. Drought is a natural cycle and the department should have been well prepared by doing controlled burning in December, instead of January, he said.

Water Management

To meet the water needs of animals and to save water for the coming summer months, thrust is being given to water tankers in Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) and on borewells in NTR.

NTR director S Manikanadan told DH that apart from using conventional methods, there is also a need for water, which is being bought from outside. Thrust is also being laid on sinking borewells. There was a 40% deficit in rainfall in Hunsur, HD Kote and Kudrehalli areas. Work on solar-panelled borewells had started two years ago.

“This year, we had planned 10 more in Antharasanthe and Veeranahosahalli. Water is scarce even in Kabini, Sarake and Lakshmanteertha rivers. Tanks around Mysuru and Madikeri have dried up,” he said.

BTR director T Heeralal told DH that they undertook controlled burning in September and October. But now, due to water scarcity, they have hired two water tankers and water jet sprayers at Rs 55,000 each. Unlike water jets of the fire department which are heavy, these jet sprayers are small but can spray water to a distance of 150 metres, he said.

Heeralal added that they had also hired water tankers to fill water holes in forest patches to ensure animals do not venture out of the forest. But they are still unable to control lantana growth which is a major cause for forest fires and conservation.

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