India — The Forest department has issued show-cause notices to several officers in Bandipur and Nagarahole tiger reserves, for concealing and doctoring facts related to the forest fire in the two reserves.
The officers have been directed to reply within two weeks.
The move comes after the report by Dr K Ullas Karanth, a member of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, on the fire mishap contradicted the Forest departments claim. The report had stated that the forest fire had destroyed over 3,500 hectare area (ha) of forest in Nagarahole and 2,000 ha in Bandipur.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Chief Wildlife Warden have written to the junior officers seeking explanation over the recent mishap as there are suspicions that forest officials in the reserves might have tried to downplay the intensity and damage caused by the fire.
In a letter, dated March 28, 2012, the PCCF had written to the Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) – wildlife Hediyala and Range Forest Officer (RFO) of Moleyur and questioned as to why it was reported that only 15 ha were gutted, while Karanths report and GPS reading and assessment, dated March 26, 2012, showed that 152 ha were gutted.
Show cause notices have also been issued to ACF of Antharasanthe and RFO of Metikuppa for their report that only 134 ha were gutted, while Karanths report stated that 980 ha of forest were set ablaze by miscreants.
ACF of Hunsur, RFOs of Anechoukur and Veeranahosahalli too have been questioned. The Anechoukur officers had stated that only 13 ha were gutted, while the extent of damage was 330 ha. The officers at Veeranahosahalli had reported destruction of 11.4 ha, but the report put the figure at 110 ha.
The ACF Bandipur and RFO Moolehole have been directed to reply as to why it was reported that just 5.5 ha were destroyed in fire, when the study stated that 623 ha of forest were gutted.
The State government had earlier denied reports about large scale destruction of forest in the fire. Even the forest minister had stated that the reports were exaggerated.