India — BHOPAL: A fire that broke out in a forest in northern region of Panna district, about 15km from the tiger reserve, on Thursday is threatening the forest cover and wildlife. Plantations in around 35 hectares of forest near Saharia area have reportedly been gutted in the fire that is spreading towards Amanganj area, said forest officials on Friday.
Making matters worse, the fire alert and messaging system (FAMS) developed by the IT wing of the forest department didn’t function, sources said. FAMS uses processed remote sensing data of active fire locations and sends instant alerts to concerned field staff through the SMS and e-mail.
More than 80 forest employees and officials have been pressed into service in the area to control the fire, said SK Gupta, DFO North.
A probe has been ordered by the state forest ministry as there are allegations that the it was the handiwork of miscreants to cover up illegal felling of trees over the last few months.
NGOs blame forest officials for the fire terming it as a planned ‘incident’ to hush up illegal felling and show expenditures of budget allotted for fire protection. “I have moved a PIL seeking investigation on rampant illegal felling of teak woods from the northern range of Panna recently. The fire broke out in the same area. It’s intentionally done to destroy the evidences,” alleges Shrikant Dixit, who runs an NGO in Panna.