INDIA – Most fires keep occuring at the same spots every year
Satellite-generated location specific fire alerts, the latest in forest fire control mechanism in Telangana State, has started yielding results in this district right at the start of the season. With this technology, the forest department can put out seven fires at various places within a span of few days, thereby limiting damage to the forest. Forest officials have to be proactive if the mechanism is to be made totally effective, feels a retired forest officer. “Some damage is already done by the time forest personnel reach the spot following the satellite alert, which itself could be delayed by a few hours,” he pointed out.
Most fires keep occuring at the same spots year after year which has critics point fingers at beedi leaf contractors. “Some deterrence is needed for contractors who, in order to save time and money on chak-tarash or pruning the tendu plants, burn the existing ones before fresh leafing,” alleged the ex-forest officer.
Adilabad District Forest Officer B. Prabhakar, however, begs to differ. “Of course, the fires are all man-made, but we rule out the involvement of beedi leaf contractors since the tenders have not been finalised yet. We will nevertheless look into the fact about fires occurring at the same spots every year,” he said.
Among special measures being taken to control forest fires is patrolling by field staff, added Mr. Prabhakar. The DFO lauded the satellite alert system through which his teams have been able to put out fires at Mavala and Seetagondi forests over the last two days. He said the latter could have caused extensive damage, instead of affecting just one hectare, thanks to quick reaction by the forest personnel.
The department, however, has not been stressing the importance of creating awareness among a section of people who, it claims, are responsible for a majority of fires — local shepherds and cowherds against discarding live stubs of beedis or cigarettes, and villagers who light fires close to the forest during a celebratory event.
There is also a need to caution farmers who burn the stubble and residual crops close to forests. “Yes, the alert which we received today (Sunday) turned out to be a fire in a field quite close to the Tansi forest,” Mr. Prabhakar agreed.