Staff shortage, lack of equipment hindering forest dept

Staff shortage, lack of equipment hindering forest dept

Close on the heels of massive wildfire in Bandipur, hundreds of acres of forest land is being consumed by the fire in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary also.

Deputy Conservator of Forests Ramesh said that forest fire was spotted at Chavarakal Betta of Muggur forest and Basavana Betta of Halaguru zone on Monday. Senior officers are camping at the site supervising dousing operation.

However, the forest department lacks adequate staff and equipment to arrest the spread of fire. The department recruits forest watchers/fire watchers for fire fighting operation. They are paid a daily wage of Rs 400, which comes to around Rs 12,000 per month. They are not even getting the mininum wages fixed by the government.

The 1.02-lakh hectare Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary has Hanuru, Gopinatham, Halaguru, Sangama and Mugguru zones. The area is home to wide variety of flora and fauna. The government has to appoint a forest watcher for every 400-500 hectares. However, a watcher has been deputed for 1,500-2000 hectares of forest land.

According to forest officials, a forest range requires around 50 watchers while the present strength is around 8. People are not coming forward to take up this job due to poor salary. Fire extinguishers cannot enter forests during fire and hence forest personnel should swing into action during such emergency. But, they lack the necessary equipment.

Deputy Conservator of Forests, Kollegal Division, S Ramesh said that at present 10 watchers had been deputed for each range. "The department requires various equipment including air blowers. We have purchased some with the available grants and have written to government for funds as well as personnel," he said.