India — Over 43,000 acres of the total 12 lakh acres of forest land have been lost in forest fires during the past five years ending 2013 in the Thane circle of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
The most recent incident took place at the beginning of summer in mid-March when about three acres of forest cover were lost in fire that broke out on a hilly terrain in Panchpakhadi region of the Yeoor division.
Forest officers said forest fires were detected in Thane division and Raigad division in the past few weeks. “The fires that were reported here were mainly sheet fires or ground fires wherein dried leaves or grass get burnt. We have already demarcated fire lines so it does not spread into big trees if there are any nearby,” said K P Singh, chief conservator of Forests and Field Director, Thane (Territorial).
Forest officials said that despite creating fire lines (a gap in vegetation that acts as a barrier to stop the progress of fire) in February every year, forest fires occurred especially in Thane, due to the thick cover of deciduous trees that shed leaves acting as fuel. “The fires could have been started by locals who want to clear forest land for private purposes like agriculture,” they said.
Environmentalists pointed out that the damage due to fire was not only to flora but also fauna which, aside from dying or getting injured, lose habitat and sources of food. The worst hit would be the smaller species like insects, birds, reptiles and even amphibians. Forest fires cause havoc to wildlife habitat and also significantly impact forest regeneration.
If such fires continue to take place in the national park, the wildlife in the green lung will face greater difficulty when it comes to survival, said environmentalists.