With Summer round the corner fire prevention and conservation measures have been stepped up in the Mukurthi National Park near Uthagamandalam. Extending over 80 sq. kms the sanctuary is one of the best known habitats of the Nilgiri tahr, an endangered wild goat species and it came into being in April 1982 to give protection to the animal.

It is also renowned for its scenic grandeur in general and its grass lands and long sheet of water in particular.

Though it is a well protected area the dry season keeps those in charge of it on tenterhooks as even a small lapse can lead to a great loss.

In tune with this vigil has been stepped up.

Speaking to The Hindu here on Saturday, the Forest Range Officer, Mukurthi, R. Halan said that the process of drawing fire lines is now on. Stating that over a distance of 140 kilometres the width of the fire lines was seven metres, he said that along a fifty kilometre trekking route it was four metres. The work was nearing completion.

Stating that many parts of the Park are still green despite lack of rains, he said that so far no bush fires have been reported.

However, “we are not letting down our guard”, he added.

Apart from 20 special fire watchers 12 anti-poaching staff are maintaining a round the clock vigil.

As part of an annual programme to keep at bay ecological predators like wattle which do considerable harm to the indigenous vegetation clearing operations are on over about fifty hectares. It will be completed in about a fortnight.

In the Upper Bhavani range the uprooting of wattle over about 100 hectares is nearly over.

The measure will significantly help conservation of the unique sholas and grasslands.

The sholas long referred to as the 'overhead tanks' of the Blue Mountains have for several decades been threatened by the exotics.

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