Incident goes unnoticed by all government departments concerned

One of the biggest fires witnessed in the city in recent times virtually went unnoticed by all departments concerned here on Sunday. There was a huge forest fire on the Gunadala Hill along the path to the crucifix on top.

The fire which destroyed greenery extensively on the North-West slope of the hill continued till late into Sunday night after it was first noticed by people at little past noon.

When The Hindu contacted officials of various government departments, they simple passed the buck. The Fire Department officers responded saying they had not received any ‘report’ or ‘information’ from either the public or the Forest Department.

When the Forest Department was contacted, the officials said the department had no jurisdiction over the Gunadala Hill. The officials added that the hill was either in the control of the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation or the Revenue Department.

Further enquiry revealed that the VMC did not own any land on the Gunadala Hill.

A large amount of the land at the base of the hillock on the North-West slope belongs to the Vijayawada Catholic Diocese and the rest is obviously revenue porambok, which is under the custody of the Revenue Department.

Anual phenomenon

People living along the slopes of the hill alleged that every once in a while the dry bushes were set on fire by vested interests for the “quick and easy” clearance of the undergrowth. This year the bushes were dry because there was no rain for a long time.

Forest fires were an annual phenomenon on the slopes of Indrakeeladri hill, which extends from the Krishna on the South right up to the Milk Factory in the North. Shepherds and cowherds who take their livestock to graze on the hill slopes are believed to be the arsonists.

They set fire to the dry grass so that there would be tender shoots for their livestock after the rainy season.

The practice, however, had to be discontinued with the mushrooming of houses on the slopes of the Indrakeeladri hill.

The encroachers left no way for the livestock to go higher up the slopes and graze. Environmental experts say such fires are highly detrimental to the fertility of the soil on the hill slopes. Several endemic species of plants and insects get wiped out affecting biodiversity.

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