India — With the onset of tendu leaves’ season, forest fires are raging. Close on the heels of ground forest fire in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), fire has gutted hundreds of hectares in Bor Wildlife Sanctuary, 60km from Nagpur in Wardha district. Fire was also reported in Gorewada, on the city outskirts.
Those having stakes in tendu leaves’ collection often indulge in fires in hope to get better yield. Last year, the forest fires began around March. This year, as tendu auctions were delayed, the fires started late. The auction process got completed only by March end. Until then, there was not a single incident of forest fires. In April, forest fires are being witnessed in all the forest areas.
Officials said around 650 hectares of forest inside the sanctuary was devastated in the fire in the past three days from April 2. The incidents were reported in core areas of Pendhri, Navegaon, and Adegaon beats.
It is feared that the fire raging outside the sanctuary in Pendhri and Chouki areas under Hingna range must have engulfed sanctuary areas. However, C S Reddy, range forest officer (RFO), Bor, denied this. “Fire inside the sanctuary started from within and has been brought under control,” he said.
Sources said the fire could have been prevented had work on firing lines been undertaken widely. This year, due to paucity of funds, authorities curtailed fire line work by 88km in Bor. TOI had reported the issue on February 15.
The original proposal of fire lines was for 148km. It included 69km fire lines under Class I (outside sanctuary) and 70km fire lines under Class II (inside the sanctuary). However, both combined, fire line work was curtailed to just 60km (30km outside and 30km inside).
One of the areas inside the sanctuary where fire has erupted has reported presence of a tigress with two cubs. Although the fires did not cause any loss to wildlife, it certainly damaged the biodiversity of the area and will affect regeneration of forests.
More such forest fires are expected to occur. Last year, due to extended rains, tall grass has come up in and around Bor, making the sanctuary vulnerable to fires.
Forest fire devastated 25 hectares of Gorewada forest on Wednesday evening. The fire was noticed in compartment number 794 by forest guard Sunil Fulzele and others. RFO Subhash Dongre rushed to the spot to monitor the situation. “A team of 10 workers brought the fire under control by countering the fire from other side. This is the fourth fire incident in Gorewada,” said H M Meshram, divisional forest officer.