India — With the arrival of summers, hill and forest ecosystems in the city and the outskirts are under threat due to forest fires. A total of 24 incidents of forest fires have taken place in areas under Pune division in the first three months this year.
The 24 forest fires have gutted around 132 hectares of forest cover, as compared to a total of 800 hectares in entire 2011.
We have already seen 132 hectares of burnt land this year, said RS Kadam, deputy conservator of forests, Pune division. Last year in February alone, these fires destroyed around 32 hectares of forest cover in Pune district.
Pune division has 72,000 hectares of forest land which is lined with 3,000 km of fire lines. Forest rangers keep a close watch on all forest fires and usually know where they are more likely to occur. However, it is difficult to locate the fires that occur in thick jungles. Often it is too late by the time our rangers reach the spot, said Kadam.Most of the fires are intentional. Only 10% may be natural fires which we try to prevent, but it is difficult to control the intentional fires, he said.
SA Thorat, additional principal chief conservator of forests, seconded the opinion. People believe that if the grass is burnt, the new grass is better in quality which is why they set fire to the grass. Many do it during the process of honey collection, said Thorat.
The forest department runs awareness programmes in forest areas to make people understand the effects of setting fire to forests.
The locals need to be aware and vigilant, so as not to let such incidents take place. If people are aware, the frequency of such fires will reduce, added Thorat.