G. Prabhakaran

Acres of forest tracts and plantations in the areas destroyed

  • Forest Department fighting to douse the fire
  • One person arrested in connection with the forest fire

    NELLIAMPATHY (PALAKKAD): The wild fire raging in parts of Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjoining Nelliampathy forests has destroyed hundreds of acres of forest tracts and plantations.

    The fire that broke out in the Thuthampara forest area of Parambikulam sanctuary, bordering Nelliampathy forests, on Saturday is still continuing and the fire that broke out couple of days ago at Thenmala Valley and Pothundy areas at the foothills of the ecologically fragile Nelliampathy Hills too was raging.

    The efforts to douse the fire were yet to succeed in Thenmala valley even on Sunday evening.

    However, the fire that engulfed acres of forest and some plantations in Thuthumpara area in Parambikulam sanctuary was put down due to the efforts of 100 labourers of Thuthampara Estate of Poab's Group and the forest firewatchers under the Nemmara Forest Division.

    Nenmara Divisional Forest Officer K. Babu told The Hindu that the department was trying its best to control the fire in Parambikulam and Nelliampathy forests. One of the reasons for the fire was the lack of pre-monsoon rain in the area.

    Mr. Babu said that forest fire could be prevented only with the cooperation of the people.

    There were cases when some people set the forest on fire, while some were accidents.

    Sometimes, negligence on the part of those who go to collect forest produce and honey also caused fire.

    The DFO said some of the retrenched forest firewatchers were also allegedly to behind such forest fire. One person was arrested on Saturday in connection with the fire in Thenmala valley in Nelliampathy.

    He said that the department had spent Rs.10 lakh for anti-fire measures in Nemmara division this year. Daily wage firewatchers whose services were terminated in March were taken back due to the incidents of forest fire this time. Since the area used to get summer rain during March-April, the services of firewatchers were not commissioned after February, he said.

    Meanwhile Thomas Jacob, director of Poabs Organic Farm in Nelliampathy, said that there was no proper management by the Forest Department.

    The department had taken over the fire and wind belts of his estate at Karuna Plantations but had not managed it properly, he alleged

    Tourists coming to Nelliampathy had also become a threat to the forests and plantations. The Forest Department was unable to control the tourist flow. Some of the tourists indulged in activities that destroyed the forest and plantations.

    Uncontrolled tourism activity in Nelliampathy, known as the `poor man's Ootty,' was threatening its very existence, Mr. Jacob said.

    He said that due to the fire, wild animals such as elephant, wild pig, bison, deer etc., had entered into the plantations and were destroying the crops.

    K. Baby, manager of Karuna and Thuthampara Estates, said Nelliampathy was facing an unprecedented drought this summer. The temperature had touched 34 degree Celsius in April.

    He said that average temperature in Nelliampathy was between 14 degree Celsius and 26 degree Celsius.

    The area used to get rain in during January, February, March and April. But this year, there was only 4 mm rain in January and after that there was no rain.

    Crops such as cardamom, tea, coffee, pepper, etc., had dried up and if there was no rain within a week the majority of the plantations would be destroyed, he said.