India — Even as the IAF helicopters and fire engines successfully doused the forest fire in Seshachalam biosphere after two days of massive ground and aerial operations, unidentified miscreants set ablaze about 2 km of forest tract near Srivari Metlu in Tirupati on Friday evening. Consequently, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams has decided against sending back IAF helicopters and armed forces personnel.
“A linear fire was detected in Seshachalam forests on Friday evening. The IAF copters will take an aerial survey on Saturday morning and douse the fire by airlifting water from KP dam. The operation will continue till the forest fire is tamed,” the TTD said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a series of fire incidents in the picturesque Nallamala forest continue to threaten the flora and fauna in Srisailam and Mahbubnagar districts. Nallamala, which houses the endangered Indian tiger among others, witnessed three forest fires in the last two days. The forests are also home to Chenchus, the most primitive tribal community in the state.
While greenery spread over thousands of hectares was lost in Seshachalam since the inferno broke out on March 18, hundreds of acres of forest tracts were burnt in Nallamala since March 19. Officials feel that while the forest fires in Seshachalam are deliberate acts of arson by red sanders smugglers and animal poachers, those in Nallamala are caused accidentally.
Also, the months of March and April witness massive movement of people. “About four lakh people cross the forests preceding Ugadi,” said Atmakur divisional forest officer (DFO) Diwan Mydeen. Also, many devotees, who take a vow, walk to Srisailam temple by foot. Those living in tribal hamlets and Chenchu ‘pentas’ move out of Nallamala during March-April. Many cross the hilly terrain by foot at night to avoid the blazing heat.
“They carry torches for lighting and for protection from wild animals. Some of them set up campfires to drive away predators. Sparks from the torches or campfires often cause forest fires in Nallamala,” he added. Walking to Srisailam temple on foot has been a tradition since the 13th century CE. People in Karnataka believe that Goddess Brahmarambahailed from their region.
On Thursday night, a massive fire broke out in Nallamala near Akkamahadevi caves. Forest officials put out the flames after crossing the Krishna river on boat on Friday afternoon. But a few hours later, another fire broke out near Patalaganga. Fighting the forest fire was a challenging task as the terrain is not accessible, Mydeen told TOI. “Fortunately, there is no loss of animal life,” he said. Local Chenchus, who spotted the flames, had alerted the forest teams. Earlier, three helicopterswere pressed into service to rein in the forest fire in Seshachalam. Helicopters sprayed about 30,000 litres of water to tame the flames.