India — Frequent and uncontrolled forest fires of varying intensities have been recorded at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Borivli.
More than 25 instances of forest fire have been reported from various areas of the 103 sq-km park since January. On Tuesday, another fire broke out near Chena Village on Ghodbunder Road and a major forest area was gutted in the fire.
Krishna Tiwari, project head, City Forest Project of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) said, “This is a serious issue affecting the park. The forest department needs to do more patrolling to control the instances of fire in the prime habitat of several endangered species.”
Forest fires have occurred at several areas in the park like Chena Village, Yeoor, Manpada, Warlipada, Kajupada, Kavesar, Ghodbunder, Nagla Block, Tata Power in Borivli (E) and Malad (E).
According to naturalists, the damage caused by fires has resulted in a lot of damage to the ecology of the park.
“The rising incidents of forest fires definitely have an adverse effect on the park and result in a huge bio-diversity loss. They also have a significant impact on species diversity and regeneration in the forest,” added Anand Pendharkar, wildlife biologist and director of environmental NGO, SPROUTS.
It is worrying that though the forest department has deployed over 100 forest guards and has a helpline to monitor the fires, their frequency is growing. Now, forest fires have become a regular phenomenon in the park. “In the last one week, I have noticed 10 forest fires at various locations in the park,” said Rahul Chauhan, an environmental researcher who works with a Thane-based organisation.
In fact, when TOI surveyed the park late in the evening on Tuesday, he saw forest fires at two locationsChena Village and Kajupada.
According to environmentalists, many of the fires are started by slum-dwellers, living on the periphery of the park, who “illegally” enter the protected areas.
Many fires are deliberately caused by encroachers to clear forest land. However, tourists who throw cigarette butts or match-sticks in the forest are also to blame for some cases, Pendharkar added.
“We have deployed a team of 122 guards along with 200 labourers to control the forest fires. We are making efforts to solve the problem caused by encroachers,” Dr P N Munde, director of SGNP said.
However, environmentalists say that the forest department needs to spread awareness among tourists and should make use of modern techniques to curb the incidents.
“The forest department should create more artificial fire lines by clearing dry vegetation in patches to ensure that the blaze does not spread,” added Tiwari. “Also, at present, traditional methods like dousing the fire by using tree branches are being used. Park officials could explore the idea of using fire extinguishers to reduce the damage.”