Fire divides forest and local officials

Fire divides forest and local officials

14 April 2009

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Ahmedabad, India — The forest officials and the local administration in Dangs are at loggerheads over the forest fire in Purna wildlife sanctuary. While forest officials claim it was the handiwork of anti-social elements, hinting at the involvement of Naxals, the district administration says it was an accident.

According to district collector Girish Shah, tribals could not have set the forest on fire as they consider it their home.”At the moment I cannot say that tribals are behind the fire. It could be manmade, but without proper investigation we cannot blame anybody,” said Shah.

Divisional forest officer CK Sonwane said an investigation into the matter is already in progress. They have also sought the help of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) to determine the actual cause of the fire.

Sonwane said a reward of Rs20,000 had been announced for anyone who had information about the fire. Meanwhile, the naxal angle is also being probed.
In the last four decades, many of the disruptive activities in the Dangshave been attributed to the Naxals, though a direct link has never been established.
Despite several claims of the government, Dangs lack basic facilities.

Poverty and unemployment are widespread and half of the population of the district migrates to neighbouring Maharashtra in search of food and work. Noted social worker Ganesh Devy who has been working among the tribals for the last 30 years said there is no link between the tribals and the Naxals.

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