But Forest Department estimates damage to 620 hectares

Recent satellite imagery reveals that nearly 2,500 hectares of land have been destroyed by forest fires at Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks since they began over a week ago on March 13. An additional 450 hectares have been ravaged in Bandipur and 70 hectares in Nagarahole in the last three days alone, according to images captured by the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) remote sensing satellite on Thursday. The images were analysed by the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad.

The NRSC, on being instructed by the Karnataka Forest Department, assessed the fires by studying Terra/Aqua Modis thermal data (to detect active fire) and Resources at 1 and 2 Advanced Wide Field Sensor (to calculate the extent of burnt area). The images have been uploaded on ISRO’s geo-portal ‘Bhuvan’.

However, the Forest Department estimates the total extent of the damage to be around 620 hectares in total. According to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Vinay Luthra, while Bandipur lost 470 hectares to fire since it began over a week ago, Nagarahole has witnessed a loss of 150 hectares. He told The Hindu that ‘ground truthing’ through global positioning system (GPS) tracking was necessary to corroborate NRSC’s analysis. Barring several bamboo clumps that went up in flames, the fire was essentially a “ground fire” and not a “canopy fire,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Forest Department has sought a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the cause of the fires. Mr. Luthra said the fires were man-made and that they could have been started by people who have been prevented from fishing or collecting firewood or by those opposing rehabilitation projects.

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