India — A huge fire in a private forest on the hill in Vaddy-Querem of Siolim village destroyed patches of vegetation but was brought under control after villagers alerted the police and fire services.
The blaze burnt the grass and dry vegetation in nine patches in an area of about 1,200 sq m under survey No. 306/6. The locals suspect it might have been an intentional act of some vested interests, who are carving out forest land for commercial purposes.
The hillside of Vaddy is witnessing rapid development activity and parts of areas under survey No. 306/9 have already been taken up for housing. In TOI’s May 12 edition, it was reported that villagers had pointed out some irregularities, including cutting of terraces on the steep hill slope to open more area for housing .
According to the villagers, the fire was noticed at around 9pm at night in a property bearing survey no 306, which is being identified as a private forest in Vaddy-Querem in Siolim.
The residents called police control room and the fire brigade from Mapusa and the cops from Siolim outpost arrived and managed to douse the fire.
The locals suspect it might have been an intentional act and has written to the forest department (RFO Karaswada) to inspect and take necessary action.
“Who else will plan to clear the forest areas, it is obviously the builders who with their vested interest are clearing the forest areas with covert attempts,” said local Joseph Noronha.
“The forest identification committee of North Goa and village-level committees have conveniently ignored forest areas in Vaddy-Siolim and as a result they have not been identified as forests, thus making it easy for builders and those with vested interests to get licences for commercial constructions without any hassle,” Noronha added.
The villagers are aggrieved with the way commercial projects are planned in the densely-wooded areas of Vaddy-Siolim which have to be identified and notified as forest in order to protect and prevent their destruction by builders.
“We suspect that it was not the natural fire spread out but intentionally done to clear the forest land, we want the forest department to inspect the site and take necessary action,” said another local Anthony D’Souza.