Karnataka ranks No. 1 in the number of forest fire cases this year, says the final report of the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
This has caused concern among forest officials as the forest fire season has just started. It has also left central officials worried over the state’s preparedness.
Karnataka tops the list with 77 forest fires. Maharashtra follows with 34 cases. Then in line are Arunachal Pradesh (27), Nagaland (24) and Andhra Pradesh (14).
However, Karnataka is not in the top-five list of highest number of forest alerts in 2018. Here it ranks third. Punjab and Maharashtra are the top two states.
Subhash Ashutosh, director general, FSI, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, told DH, “We are startled with the findings. Fire season starts in December and it is just mid-January and this is the situation. This has been pointed out to Karnataka, but they are unable to come up with a convincing answer about the number of fire cases.”
Punati Sridhar, head of Karnataka Forest Force, said FSI takes satellite data and shares the alert with all states. Based on the GPS location shared, the ground staff do the checking. It has been found that in most cases, location is on the periphery of the forests.
According to state records, so far, over 4,000 alerts have come. Of these, 70-75% are outside the forests. Last year, there was no fire at Bandipur tiger reserve. This year, the highest number of forest fires was at Charmadi Ghat, where 100 acres were gutted on January 4.