India — Abundantly grown bamboo grass in Bandipur National Park has started flowering, calling forest officers to be all eyes and ears.
The tall grass bamboo blossoms only once in 40-45 years, which is referred to as Gregarious Flowering.
No sooner the flower withers than the bamboo grass dries, indicating its death, making it a perfect trigger for wild fire if the bamboo blades rub against each other. If any growth nearby catches fire, there are chances of fire engulfing the whole forest owing to the dry bamboo which not only burns easily, but can also sway to spread the fire.
Deputy Conservator of Forests ( Bandipur) K T Hanumanthappa told Deccan Herald, the flowering indicates danger. In Bandipur National Park alone 250 hectares of the total 870 sq km area has vast growth of bamboo, but in patches.
The Department of Forest has decided to take precautionary measures like widening the fire line from the existing 10 metres to 20 metres on either side of the highway passing through the forest, followed by deploying watchers at prominent places, most importantly watch towers at hill tops, besides patrolling border villages.
Watchers will be provided walkie-talkie for easy communication and also vehicles to ferry them to and fro. A requisition has been already sent to the fire station at Gundlupet for deploying a dedicated fire tender during the period.
The local tribals will be recruited on a daily wage basis to help forest personnel fight fire. The tribals have a traditional method of extinguishing fire using idugalu hullu a broom made from dry grass.
As the park is also a major tourist attraction, the forest personnel will keep high vigil, especially during weekends, holidays and special occasions. However, the department has started destroying weeds, shrubs and other waste within 10 metres radius of the bamboo growth. This helps in checking the fire from spreading further.
Unlike previous years, it has been decided to take stringent action against those who stray into the forest. Be it cattle rearers, shepherds or tourists, they have to take prior permission at the border of the forest, where the men will be posted. The intention is to prevent occurrence of untoward incidents.
Ban sought on evening safari
The DCF has also sent a missive to the office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests to ban evening safari in Bandipur temporarily from February 1 to April 15.
The officer said that the ban has been sought only in the interest of safeguarding lives, in case of wild fire.
The evening safari in the park starts at 4 pm and ends at 6 pm. The safari vehicles will be utilised for exigencies.