It's reckoned to be the first such fire in Marappanakatte area in more than 45 years

A major fire is raging across a large swathe of Nagarahole National Park, portions of which has been reduced to cinders.

The fire was reported from Marappanakatte area on Sunday and is reckoned to be the first such conflagration in this part of the national park in more than 45 years. Sources said the fire was first noticed around noon and continued to burn through late in the evening.

Though several Forest Department staff and volunteers tried to douse the flames, the devastation was colossal and the fire raged uncontrollably.

The sources said the fire was deliberately stoked by some miscreants to prevent the survey of swamp in connection with determination of forest rights.

However, Nagarahole is a tinder box this season due to the prevailing dry conditions and even the south-eastern portion of the park, which is generally moist and green even during summer, has been badly affected.

Many areas of Nagarahole, including Mettikuppe, Kalahalli and the stretch to Hebbala elephant camp, have been engulfed by fire and more than 500 acres of forests has been devastated between Mettikuppe and Hebbala, according to preliminary estimates.

In other places

Forest fires were also reported from Kempanakatte, Thodikatte, Rottikatte and Sarathi, and officials have attributed the devastation to be the handiwork of miscreants.

The sources said while failure of post-monsoon and unseasonable rains have aggravated the ground situation, the fires are entirely man-made and generally some people living on the fringes and penalised by the Forest Department for violation of any act, wreak revenge during summer by setting off a spark which engulfs the jungles.

Expressing distress over the development, the sources said larger animals may move away to safety, but the smaller ones and the young ones, slow-moving reptiles, insects, ground nesting birds, and very importantly the humus and leaf litter that help regenerate the soil, get destroyed.

Small saplings get burnt out as also seeds awaiting the monsoon to sprout, all of which retards forest regeneration.

Nagarahole had last seen such devastation in 2004 and before that in 1999.

More In: Karnataka | National