Forest fires stalking Bandipur, Nagarahole

Some are accidental, but many are lit by vengeful locals and poachers

The national parks have reported nearly 20 fire incidents since the onset of summer, this year. The heat is drying up the vegetation, making it vulnerable to fire, keeping the Forest officials on their toes.

Some of the fires are the result of the Forest officers’ strict vigilance in the forest range and their action against poachers and miscreants for unauthorised entry into the forests. Some vested interests, in a bid to settle scores with the officers, are setting off dry patches of forest on fire, it is suspected.

On Friday, a fire that broke out near Veeranahosahalli and Sunkadakatte gutted about 15 acres of forest vegetation. It took more than five hours for the watchers to extinguish the fire through the crude method of bush-beating. Though the fire was the biggest in the season so far, the thin scrub vegetation and timely action from the forest officials prevented the spread of fire.

Combustible litter

Vijay Ranjan Singh, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Nagarahole Division told Deccan Herald that his men acted swiftly to contain the spread of fire. There are regular forest fires at Metikuppe, Antharasanthe and D B Kuppe range.

“We arrested a man red-handed for looting forest timber last week. A fire was reported within two days exactly 10 metre away from the place where he was arrested. The bamboos have dried for two years now and there is lot of combustible litter on the ground,” he said.

Despite a ban on the entry of domestic cattle into the forest, people from the surrounding 20 villages in the Veeranahosahalli range continue to let their cattle inside the forests for grazing, leading to a strife between the Forest Department officers and the locals.

The officers are facing the same problem in Bandipur too. The Bandipur Division reported about 10 fires, with the scale of fire ranging from small to medium and larger areas.

According to Hanumanthappa, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bandipur Division, while a few of the fires were accidental, many were the handiwork of mischievous elements who acted in revenge against the strict Forest officers.

“The recent ban on cattle grazing in the Reserve forest has caused disaffection among the villagers. At the same time, the Lantana thorny weed which grows dense and accumulates a lot of inflammable material in the form of dry foliage is adding to the challenge,” he said.

Precautions

* Regular monitoring of sensitive areas
* Deployment of fire watchers and watch towers
* Wireless communication to tip off on fire incidents
* Fireline formation - preventing spread of fire from one patch to other
* Logistic support - vehicles and watchers on standby to douse the fire

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