India — The major forest fire reported from Nagarahole National Park and Bandipur Tiger Reserve has taken a toll on nearly 1,600 acres of shrub land, which has been completely devastated and reduced to cinders.
Meanwhile, the fire at the two Reserve forests on same day has sparked off various theories of conspiracy and sabotage.
According to sources, Forest officials, fire fighters, tribals and RFOs are still not able to bring the fire under control as the is wind velocity is high. Several species of animals including giant Malabar squirrels and birds have been killed in the fire.
Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, Director, R Gokul speaking to Deccan Herald said that the department has booked a criminal case and has orally handed over the case to CID for investigation.
What has happened is unfortunate. This, despite us taking necessary steps. The act is no less than an act of terrorism, he said.
According to him more than 600 acres of forest land has been damaged at Tithimathi forest area and Anechowkur range of the Nagarahole national park, which is close to Mattigodu Elephant Camp. The area had fire line constructed for a length of 230 km, to prevent the fire from spreading.
Gokul said that fire at two National Parks on same day has raised suspect on NGOs working in the forest areas.
He said that the NGO who are dependent on foreign funds were only pretending to be working towards empowering tribals/forest conservation, and that they had vested interest by setting the fire.
Soon after the reports of fire are published in the media, the NGOs collect and send it abroad to organisations, claiming that Indian authorities had failed to protect the flora and fauna of the country. As a result, more funds start flowing towards them, he said.
Gokul ruled out that there was no shortage of staff in the forest range to tackle the situation. Even if we have a big staff, it is not possible to mitigate engulfing flames from spreading across the forest, he said.
Both the ranges have huge bamboo shoots across the forest. Gokul pointed out that dried bamboo was the prime reason for the fire not being brought under control. The sparks of bamboos which are hollow in nature, jumps more than 20 to 30 metres when fire breaks out. It is not possible to douse the fire in these conditions, especially when heavy winds aggravates the fire, he added.
Bamboo grass was planted on a large scale in the early 1970s with an intention to maintain fodder supply to the pachyderms and to provide bamboo to the government run Bhadaravathi paper mills.
But once the ranges were declared as Tiger reserves, it prevented the authorities from cutting the bamboo, with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) strictly banning felling of trees or any kind of harvesting of grass or other tree species in.
After 40 years, bamboos whither and dry up. It is the case with the bamboo in the both the reserve forests, as they dried up last December.
A Range Forest Officer, said that the declaration of national parks and Tiger reserves had prevented cutting down of even a blade of grass, which was now ending up in a major catastrophe.