India Bengal uru – Even as Bandipur and other tiger reserves were ravaged by forest fires recently, in Shettyhalli, Sakrebailu and Hanagere wildlife areas of Shivamogga district, ground forest fires which occurred over 200-300 hectares, has now been brought under control. Forest officials concur there were instances of people deliberately triggering fires while some were acts of revenge against the department. In Shettyhalli, the problem of encroachment is acute.
The range has five teams to control forest fires but groups of people target an area when the forest team is busy putting out fires in another area, said Kiran, Range Forest Officer (RFO), Shivamogga wildlife. We saw sustained ground fires in 10-12 hectares as the litter is pretty heavy in teak plantations. Encroachment is an old issue here and building of elephant proof trenches angered the people and this is what led to fires. But we have managed to control the fire.
Sakrebailu RFO Nagesh says 200 hectares in Basavapura and Keegadi were completely overrun by fires.There has been major ground fires involving burning of teak litter. But no damage caused to big timber trees. There have been instances in the past of encroachment and deliberate burning in some villages in Shivamogga and Sakrebailu. No new cases have been reported.
Situated on the western side of Shettyhalli, Hanagere Range has seen sporadic incidents of forest fires. Hanagere RFO Ravi said, More than 12 hectares of wildlife was affected. Our 24 hour patrolling brought the fire under control. Not all fires are deliberate, maybe some. Our three Rapid Response Teams are putting in maximum efforts to tackle the situation.
Countering this, wildlife activists say official data on forest fires in the district is just a fraction of the ground reality as large tracts of forest lands have been burnt either for claiming land or as an act of revenge by encroachers. About 500 hectares have been deliberately burnt so land titles can be claimed under the Forest Rights Act. For the last one month, landless people have done this in connivance with local political leaders in some ranges.