India HYDERABAD: In what could impact India’s efforts to conserve tigers, the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve has emerged as the worst-hit area in terms of damage by forest fires. The highest burnt area coverage (18%) among all the protected green zones and sanctuaries in India falls under Nagarjunasagar tiger reserve.
Ironically, the second highest burnt area is also in Andhra Pradesh Gundla Brahmeswaram Wildlife Sanctuary with 8.4% of the green cover affected by forest fires every year. Brahmeswaram is also a habitat for tigers and panthers. Two other wildlife sanctuaries – Kaundinya and Sri Venkateswara – (both in AP) also figure in the top 10 protected areas that are hit by forest fires.
Kaundinya, the only protected area for Asian elephants in AP, occupies the fifth and Sri Venkateswara, which is home to the highly endemic Cycas and red sanders tree species, stands at the sixth position in terms of the extent of green cover burnt.Since there is no natural distinction or vegetative barrier between the Nagarjunasagar tiger reserve and Amrabad tiger reserve in Telangana, big cats in both the protected areas are likely to be hit by frequent forest fires. Pakhal and Eturnagaram wildlife sanctuaries in Telangana also figure in the list of extensive green cover damage.
Remote sensing studies of various forests across the country by the city-based National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) revealed that 9.4 per cent of the total vegetation in the protected areas was burnt. “Our results suggest that protected areas have to be considered for strict fire management as an effective strategy for mitigating climate change and biodiversity conservation,” the NRSC research team said in its study published in the recent issue of the Journal of Earth Systems Science. The team com prising C Sudhakar Reddy , VVL Padma Alekhya, KRL Saranya, K Athira, CS Jha, PG Diwakar and VK Dadhwal utilised Resourcesat-2 data and found that as much as 48,765 sq km of forest, 6,540 sq km of scrub and 1,821sq km of grasslands in India have been affected by forest fires.
The team noted that the future outlook reveals that “biodiversity remains under threat and substantial action needs to be undertaken”.
According to decadal scale fire incidences in protected areas, Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam has the highest number of forest fires, followed by Gundla Brahmeswaram,” the NRSC team said blaming rise in temperatures for the spurt in fire accidents in forests.