300 watchers, guards to be hired to combat forest fires

300 watchers, guards to be hired to combat forest fires

18 January 2015

published by www.thehindu.com

India — Three minor fires that broke out in Bandipur last week has made the Forest Department to take precautionary measures to combat forest fires that are common in the run-up to summer.

Fire was noticed in the Kundagere range near Mangala village, Karemala Betta, close to the tribal colony and near Maddur Gate, all in Bandipur.

Though the extent of damage caused to vegetation was minimal, it is the timing that has caused concern.

The forest betrays traces of greenery and has not fully turned dry, as the early morning mist tends to keep the vegetation wet. Besides, the waterholes are nearly full and there is enough moisture content in the air. Yet, there was fire owing to the rising temperature during the daytime.

Hence, the authorities are gearing up for an intense summer in the days ahead, which will turn the entire national park bone-dry by the first or second week of February. Consequent to the outbreak of fire, the authorities met to finalise the temporary appointment of forest-watchers and guards from the local village and tribal communities. H.C. Kantharaju, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Conservator of Forests, told The Hindu that they planned to recruit 300 temporary watchers and guards to combat forest fires this year.

“The recruitment of watchers will commence from January 20 and they will be provided ration and daily wages,” said Mr. Kantharaju. The new temporary recruits would be deployed till the first few spells of the monsoon.

Arrangements would be made for their stay in anti-poaching camps and in the forests during which they would be on jungle patrol to keep a watch on any fire outbreak.

“Besides recruitment, the burning of ‘fire lines’ is nearing completion, and in all 3,200 km of fire line will be burnt and vegetation cleared,” Mr. Kantharaju said.

“Fire lines” refer to a 25 ft to 30 ft wide bald land that marks the boundary of a beat of a block within the forest. The boundary is cleared of vegetation through controlled burning during winter. In case of a fire within the block it cannot spread beyond the bald patch of land and the fire is confined to that particular block. In the tourism area, “fire lines” are burnt along the safari route.

D. Rajkumar of the Wildlife Conservation Foundation, Mysuru, explained that the bald patch of land helped the flames to die out, as in the absence of any combustible material to burn the fire is confined to a specific area within the forest.

Bandipur — as also the adjoining Nagarahole National Park — has a history of forest fires abetted by proliferation of weeds such as lantana in recent years and fires could degrade the habitat in the long run.

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