India — Forest fires in Pune district this February have destroyed 32 hectares of forest cover and caused losses of Rs 23,000. According to the chief conservator of forests Akhouri Subir Kumar Sinha, quick action to douse them can help cut losses to a large extent.
Most forest fires in Pune district occur at Bhor, Sinhagad, Dive Ghat and Junnar. According to the forest department, Khandala and Narayangaon are also prone.
The Bhor division lost as much as 27 hectares to forest fire in February, while the Pune division had to forego five hectares. The Pune district includes Pune, Junnar and Bhor divisions.
There is not much vegetation in the Pune division. Forest fires are mainly in Junnar and Bhor divisions where the grass is tall. It is mostly ground fire and can be tackled by our staff. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) has been sending us alerts about the places where fires start. It has helped us take action, said Sinha.
The alert system has particularly helped the department locate fires in the interiors of the forest. Our rangers do keep a close watch on all forest fires and usually know where they are most frequent and likely to occur. However, it is difficult to locate those fires that occur in thick jungles. Often it is too late by the time our rangers reach the spot, Sinha said.
When a fire breaks out, the FSI sends the latitude and longitude of the fire point which helps the forest rangers reach the spot quickly. The Pune circle of the forest department which includes Pune and Solapur districts receives Rs 40 lakh per year for forest protection.
Branches of trees are used to beat down small fires.
If the fire is huge, our rangers start a fire in the opposite direction. The fire dies down at the point where both meet as there is no raw material within the circle to burn, he added.
The department divides the area into different sections. Each is separated by ditches so that fires do not spread to another sections.
Forest fires harm the eco-system as the grass which stops soil erosion is lost. Valuable timber is also burnt down, said Sinha.