India — HYDERABAD: The ‘security’ of the sprawling KBR National Park, sitting pretty in the heart of the city, has come to haunt state forest officials. Giving them sleepless nights are 10 hutments that have sprung up along the park’s periphery over time, thereby, posing a serious threat to the safety of the 400-acre vast ‘green cover’. So much so that the department has shot off two strongly-worded letters, one as recently as on April 1 to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) seeking an “immediate clearance” of these settlements. The first letter was sent on March 18.
The hutments that stand around KBR’s edges are occupied by HMDA workers appointed to sweep and maintain the walkway that runs through the area. This portion, unlike the core forest zone, is under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan authority.
Officials noted that the rampant use of firewood for cooking by these settlers has turned the park into a sitting duck for forest fire, especially during the summer season. To add to that, many among them are smokers.
“This is a dry deciduous forest with a lot of scrub plantations that make it vulnerable to forest fires,” said K Mohan, divisional forest officer (DFO) of KBR park, adding, “Most of these workers are not even aware that a small mistake on their part can result in a disaster. Usage of firewood can actually trigger a forest fire as these settlements stand very close to the thick tree cover.”
Apart from the fear of the forest being swiped out (owing to a raging fire), officials also raise concerns about the threat it poses to human and animal lives.
The KBR National Park attracts at least 2,000 morning walkers regularly. The park houses 106 species of trees, 110 varieties of birds and 30 species of mammals and reptiles. Forest officials also receive frequent complaints regarding these workers unlawfully entering the park premises. “We had booked a trespassing case against one worker who jumped into the park. Since the park has many sandalwood trees, we do not want to take any chances by allowing such activity,” said another official.
When contacted HMDA officials, while confirming the receipt of the letters, said they are yet to take a decision on this issue.
“We have received the letter from the forest department and we will be replying to them soon. On the issue of these settlements, we are in the process of resolving it,” said Rajender Reddy, director of HMDA’s urban forestry wing.