To save fort, forest dept in firefighting mode

To save fort, forest dept in firefighting mode

2 November 2008

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Pune, India — To prevent a grand piece of Maratha history from being ravaged by any forest fires, the state forest department is raising its own squads of firefighters. They will guard the historic Sinhagad fort and the surrounding areas. Each of the five villages at the base of the towering fort will have special firefighters keeping watch. The villagers are also being roped in to be part of the teams.

“Forest fires around Sinhagad are a year-round phenomena barring the rainy season. Sometimes they take place naturally, but often villagers start them by burning grass. They believe it brings more rain. It’s tough dissuading them from doing so. In some cases poaching has not been ruled out as the intention of starting the fires,” said Ashok Pawar, assistant conservator of forest, Pune division.

“Such fires cause a loss of vegetation, saplings and small creatures. We are going to appoint special squads, to keep a tab on these fires and take appropriate measures to prevent them,” he added.

These squads would be appointed in Sambarewadi, Atkarwadi, Mordari, Donje and Thopatewadi villages.

Besides the forest department staff, a few villagers will be part of these squads.

Dr. Mandar Akkalkotkar of Ayurved Vidnyan Manch said, “Forest fires are a big threat to flora and fauna. They are intense and devastate whatever comes in their path. It is always better to control such fires before they go on a destruction spree.” The forest department is going to provide only basic firefighting equipment and the fires have to be extinguished manually.

Other steps are also being taken to save the fort. From August 15 this year, the forest department, along with the Pune Municipal Corporation started collecting entry fees from vehicles and a deposit from any visitor carrying plastic bags and bottles here. The entry charge for four-wheelers and two-wheelers is Rs 50 and Rs 20 respectively. “In the first month itself, we managed to collect Rs 3.5 lakh. We would have collected a similar amount in the subsequent months, though official figures are yet to come.” Pawar said.

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