India — BANGALORE: Karnataka forest minister C P Yogeshwar on Wednesday said the forest fire, which ravaged the Nagarahole National Park and Shimoga’s Shettihalli Wildlife Sanctuary, was manmade and suggested the involvement of some lower level staff of the department.
About 2,000 acres of forest land, all part of the Western Ghats, has been affected, the forest department said. The state government has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Kaushik Mukherjee, additional chief secretary, forest, ecology & environment department, said the department has introduced a satellite imagery guided system of alerting field officials about the fire through email and SMS. The fire had been doused in about 200 hectares in Nagarahole and 300 hectares in Shettihalli area. Around 300 people are involved in the fire fighting exercise.
Mukherjee said forest regeneration would be slowed down by this fire as saplings and seeds which would have sprouted in the monsoon would get burnt out.
The minister, after receiving a report from the Western Ghats Task Force, said, “We definitely suspect lower level forest staff and outsiders.” He said about 4,000 lower level forest employees have been working on a casual basis in the department for a long time and their services haven’t been regularized due to technical problems. “These people may be getting back at the department through such acts,” he said, adding that some outsiders in the forest fringe area, who have a grudge against some officials may also be involved. With this, the earlier theory that tribals had started the fire is losing credibility.