The authorities in Nagarhole wildlife sanctuary have burnt vegetation along the safari routes which is the traditional method of containing forest fires from spreading in case of a conflagration.

This is reckoned to be a practical way of containing forest fires as controlled burning of vegetation done in winter ensures that in case of a fire, there is no scope for flames to spread beyond the bald patch of land cleared of vegetation, termed as “fire line”. In Nagarhole alone about 1,700 hectares of vegetation has been cleared and burnt as part of fire-fighting measures. Wildlife activists have pleaded for roping in the local community and to appoint unemployed youth to the posts of fire spotters and watchers and thus gain their confidence. Funding is not an issue to save the forests from fires and there is adequate corpus to be drawn from the State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority.

Meanwhile, Wildlife First, an NGO advocating conservation issues, has called for a ban on civic-related work so that the resources, both monetary and human, could be channelised towards fire protection work.

Also on the anvil are slots on radio and television appealing for the local community’s cooperation. For, the key to containing forest fires is to prevent them in the first place.

Though Bandipur and Nagarhole are prone to forest fires, the frequency of their occurrence can spell ruin to this rich habitat that is home to tigers, elephants, leopards, dholes, sambhars, spotted deer and scores of other exotic animals and birds. These two landscapes have also been recognised by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) as India’s best tiger and elephant landscape and hence merit all efforts to balance wildlife conservation with the local community’s economic and survival imperatives.

R. Krishna Kumar