India — Several cases of forest fire have been reported in Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves and, in most cases, it has been the locals tribals and villagers who have been behind this. In a recent case at Bandipurs Gopalaswamy Betta range, about two acres were gutted under ground fire.
According to Bandipur Tiger Reserves deputy conservator of forests (DCF), KT Hanumanthappa, it happened near a camp and the staffers were just in time to control it. He also revealed that two persons have been arrested in this connection, and search is on for four others.
Nagarhole Tiger Reserve also faces a similar situation. DCF Vijay Ranjan Singh said that there have been about seven cases of forest fire in Mettikuppe range and the last one occurred on March 19. He pointed out that the range is fire-prone as several tribals and locals are in the vicinity.
Since the area is also dry, it is more vulnerable to fire, when compared to Nagarhole and DB Kuppe ranges, he said. He also said thatseveral locals have been booked for setting forest fires, this year.
A forest official shared the reason for this mishap. Last year, there was a dispute with respect to the fire-fighting wages. Since it was not in the favour of some locals, they try to seek vengeance by damaging the forest, he said.
The other reason is the belief of locals that setting the forest on fire may give way to fresh blades of grass that is good for cattle-grazing.
Some ranges are targeted because of the effective setting up of trenches, to restrict elephant movements and also the movement of cattle inside the forest.
The department has been dousing fire by creating fire lines, undertaking controlled burning, beating the fire with bushes, and even throwing water. Locals are also being hired to ensure that they are employed and do not indulge in illegal practices.
There were several awareness camps to educate them. A helpline has also been set up for reporting fire incidents to the department. Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) BK Singh said that the department has been taking all precautionary measures to ensure that there is no harm done to forests.
In all cases of forest fire, there have been no destruction of wildlife. The measures are also being strengthened to keep a tab on the locals.We are now praying for early rains to help in making the work easy. However, patrolling has been intensified and additional staff has been deployed to manage the forests, he said.