Carelessly thrown away cigarette butts have reduced precious tracts of forest in the State to ashes during the current fire season.

An analysis of the forest fire data available with the State Forest Department reveals that around 60 hectares of forest was lost between February and March this year due to the fire ignited by carelessly thrown cigarette butts. This accounts for around 4 per cent of the loss this season.

Fire ignited by cigarette butts often takes place near koopu roads – roads that run through forest areas – which are used by tribes and non-tribes. In some cases, empty matchboxes and cigarette packets have been recovered from near fire spots, said K.J. Varughese, Chief Conservator of Forest, Eco Development and Tribal Welfare.

Those who enter forest for collecting forest produces and cattle grazing also contribute to forest fire. Tribal people collecting honey and other forest produces were responsible for the loss of 27 hectare this season, according to the data.

Causes

Natural fire ignited by lightning, discharge from electric lines, spreading of fire due to careless handling of fire and intentional fire are the other cases identified by the Forest Department for forest fire.

It is inferred that more than 95 per cent of the forest fire are manmade ones.

In case of intentional fires, convicts in wildlife offences or those aggrieved with forest officials have been found involved in some cases, Mr. Varughese said. They set the forest on fire as an act of vengeance and two cases have been registered this season in this regard, he said.

Though it had been predicted that the current season would be a tough one considering the increased atmospheric temperature, summer showers and an increased vigil by Vana Samrakshana Samities and Eco Development Committees have saved the forest tracts, he said.

Incidents

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) has listed 106 fire incidents in the State between December 2009 and May 2010.

Last year, it had reported 166 incidents in Kerala during the same period.

The FSI monitors forest fire using a remote sensing-based system on a daily basis and the data are communicated with the respective State Forest departments through fax and e-mails, according to its web site.

The general public can obtain daily reports of forest fire by registering themselves with the web site.

SMS alerts

E-mails and SMS alerts will be sent by the FSI making the information on forest fire accessible to the general public.

According to T.M. Manoharan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, forest officials in areas where fire spots are detected are alerted through SMS and reports on fire prevention are sought. This has resulted in the effective management of forest fire, he said.

This season, 1,324.59 hectares has been destroyed in fire. Last month, 751.05 hectare of forest was lost to the blaze.

Keywords: Fire control

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