A large area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and a part of the adjoining Film City here were engulfed in a forest fire on Tuesday.
The fire, which started late on Monday night, was brought under control by Tuesday evening.
A huge rescue operation was undertaken by the Forest Department with the help of the fire brigade from Tuesday morning to douse the fire. Forest officials, however, have started probing the incident, suspecting arson.
“We first received the news of the fire from tribal areas near the forest. The fire was not limited to a single spot and it spread quickly to more than two to three different areas in the adjoining forest area of the national park,” said S.D. Saste, Assistant Conservator of SGNP. The fire has not harmed animals.
Around 80 officials of different ranks from the Forest Department carried out the operation inside the forest area, while the fire brigade worked from within the Film City, stopping the fire from spreading further.
“We have been on a campaign to remove encroachments in the national park… we have removed almost 5,000 unauthorised structures. It is likely that the fire was started from one of those illegal structures within the national park,” said an officer.
Conservation activists too have made it clear that the increasing human interference inside the national park, which exists within the city limits, could have triggered the fire.
“The boundaries are not manned properly. Encroachment and trespassing are extremely easy. Human interference seems more of a reason for this forest fire than natural ones,” said Sunish Subramanian, secretary, Plant and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Mumbai.