India — Raging wildfires have destroyed large tracts of forests and grasslands in the rain shadow Attappady region of Palakkad ever since summer set in.
According to available information, over 200 hectares of forest area and grasslands have been lost.
On Tuesday, two fresh wildfires were reported from the region.
On Monday, the wildfires had spread to agricultural lands, and crops on 25 acres were destroyed. Farmers estimate the loss at Rs.30 lakh.
Forest officials said the wildfire that destroyed the Nakupathy forest in the past week spread to nearby private plantations on Monday. The undergrowth at Kurala Centre at Jellipara was the first casualty.
The wildfire destroyed almost all plants, including coffee, coconut, areca nut, and teak trees in the area.
It took hours for a fire force team from Attappady to extinguish the fire.
Attappady has received scanty rainfall this year as compared to those in previous years. The situation is especially bad in Sholayur, Pudur, and Agali panchayats where wildfire, along with drinking water scarcity, have made life miserable.
With almost all the rivulets drying up, supply of drinking water using trucks has begun.
Forest officials said the fire lines prepared at the onset of summer had not yielded the desired results. Brewers of illicit liquor inside forests posed a huge threat, they said.
Installation of secret cameras inside forests and appointment of temporary watchmen from among tribal people are on in a bid to counter the wildfires.
The biggest challenge in containing wildfires is the lack of enough forest watchers. The government has cut short their numbers citing paucity of funds, M. Sukumaran of the Attappady Samrakshana Samiti said.
When the Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS) was functioning, it deployed its staff to contain the wildfires.