INDIA – THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Monsoon used to turn the mountains and forest tracts into paradise with clouds breaking through the mountains and kissing the peaks of the hills. But this time, the spring that followed the winter has an extended sojourn in the forests of Kerala thanks to the lockdown, although it brought the state to its knees. When normal life came to a standstill in urban landscape owing to the lockdown, spring flowers and bursting buds added a splash of colour to the wildlife, even in scorching summer.
The state used to be in the throes of forest fire in the summer months of March and April. But this time, there was a 70 per cent drop in fire incidents in the forests of Kerala. According to the Forest department’s statistics, around 604.18 ha of forest land was affected by forest fire in the state till June 1. Of the total 315 fire incidents recorded, only 14 large fire incidents (affecting five hectares or more) were reported.
Moreover, from March 23 to April 15, the peak forest fire season in Kerala, the state received only 86 satellite-based fire-alerts from the Forest Fire Alert System, a national database maintained by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun, whereas it was 422 during the same period last year. The extent of land affected by the fire this year during this time was 49.8 ha, whereas it was 116.2 ha during this period last year. The data underscores the point that when human intervention declined on forest tracts and forest eco-spots, the forest fire incidents also decreased drastically.
According to a senior forest official, humans and their vested interests are the main reasons for over 90 per cent of the fire incidents in the forests of Kerala. “This time, lockdown and relatively good spell of pre-monsoon rain reduced forest fire incidents. The drop in forest fire also contributed to the regeneration of the biodiversity of forest ecosystem and wildlife,” he said.
N Badusha, president of Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samiti, said: “The infamous forest fire in Chembra peak in Wayanad, an adventure tourism destination under the South Wayanad forest division in the district, had destroyed the flora and fauna in over 100 hectares of ecologically fragile area in 2017. Even three years after the incident, we couldn’t arrest the offenders. So at least a lockdown for two months in forest tracts during peak summer season in every year will certainly contribute to the reduction of forest fires and regeneration of forest biodiversity,” he said.