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NGO strengthens information network in Bandipur

R. Krishna Kumar
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It is reaching out to students to create awareness of dangers of forest fires

Forest fires that ravage Bandipur and Nagarahole destroys large swathe of wildlife habitat rendering them inhospitable to animals.— PHOTO: M.A.SRIRAM
Forest fires that ravage Bandipur and Nagarahole destroys large swathe of wildlife habitat rendering them inhospitable to animals.— PHOTO: M.A.SRIRAM

A non-governmental organisation involved in wildlife conservation and the Forest Department have strengthened the information network around Bandipur to combat forest fires by reaching out to the student community.

Bandipur being a dry deciduous forest is highly susceptible to forest fires between February and May.

Sometimes, forest fires are averted due to unseasonal rains during December or January. But the authorities were not so lucky this year. Over 90 per cent of Bandipur is dry and the flowering of bamboo — which acts as a catalyst to spread the flames and wreaks havoc — is giving the jitters to the Forest Department.

However, Wildlife Conservation Foundation, Mysore, with the assistance of the department launched an awareness drive to create awareness among students of the perils of forest fires.

Information brochures and pamphlets highlighting the dangers and impact of frequent forest fires on environment and human society, were distributed to over 15,000 students in 63 schools and five colleges around Bandipur and parts of Nagarahole. Contact numbers of local forest officers were also provided so that students could inform the authorities of outbreaks of fire on the fringes of the forest. Special lectures were delivered in all the schools and students' awareness level of the issue was heightened.

D. Rajkumar of the Wildlife Conservation Foundation told The Hindu that the awareness drive was launched in January and continued till February 15 while an awareness jatha or a public rally was taken out at D.B. Kuppe, Balle and Machur on Friday.

“Special talks on forest fires and its impact on both man and animals were delivered and pamphlets distributed to students of 63 schools not only strengthened the information network but this exercise has heightened the involvement of students and their sense of obligation to help fight forest fires as it affects them directly,” said Rajkumar. This exercise was launched three years ago and has paid rich dividends so far and the forest department has been alerted to outbreak of fires on many occasions. Intervention due to timely information provided by students has helped extinguish fire before it could escalate into a major conflagration to create havoc, said Rajkumar. In one case, two 9th standard students at Bachali near Bandipur not only alerted the forest officials but waited till they reached the spot and helped extinguish the fire. This year, a group of students informed the authorities of a fire near Balle and it was promptly put out.

The drive entailed clearing a popular misconception that forest fires are a natural phenomena.

Students were apprised of the dangers caused by habitat destruction, proliferation of fire-resistant weeds, decrease in green cover and the resultant aggravation of man-animal conflict as wild animals stray into human landscape following the destruction of their natural habitat.

“Children are taught about urban issues like solid waste management and garbage menace which are irrelevant to them in a rural or forest milieu. Hence, we thought of interacting with them on an issue that is of immediate relevance to them and they have responded well,” he added.

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