“No damage reported to wildlife forms”
JAIPUR: Forest fires raging in a 10-sq-km area of Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar district of Rajasthan were put out around 4-30 a.m. on Tuesday. It took about 18 hours for the forest staff and a group of local villagers to quell the fires that swallowed up the grass of a whole region in the Tehla and Sariska ranges in the reserve, awaiting re-introduction of wild tigers any time now.
The fires were first reported around 11-30 a.m. on Monday in the Mala Johad Ka, Raipurbal and Jodhabas localities of the reserve. The cause of the fires was not immediately known. The presence of dry grass and absence of any water source in the area helped the fire spread.
Field Director P.S. Somasekhar, talking to this correspondent from Sariska, said the fires were brought under control with the joint efforts of the forest staff and the villages. An estimated area of 8-10 sq km was affected by the fires though no damage was reported to the wildlife forms in the reserve, he said. Nearly 35 persons from two villages and an equal number of forest personnel carried out the “beating operations” to control the fires.
Not much damage
The fire brigade too was called in from Alwar . The fire engines were located at strategic places to stop the flames from spreading to new areas, Mr. Somasekhar said. But for dead trees and grass, the fires did not cause much damage to the flora of Sariska.
“It has been a surface fire which affected vegetation up to the height of two feet,” he noted.
“Every summer incidents of fire occur in forests. The presence of dry grass and the movement of villagers make these places vulnerable to wild fires,” said Mr. Somasekhar, ruling out the possibility of the fire having any impact on the proposed move to re-introduce wild tigers to Sariska.
Nestled in the Aravallis across an area of 881 sq km, Sariska was included in the list of tiger reserves in the country in 1978. However, it lost all its tigers to poaching some time in 2004-05. After a global outcry over the lost tigers and a report from the Tiger Task Force constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thereafter, it was decided that Sariska would get back the wild cats—after fulfilling certain conditions, including shifting of the forest villages located inside the sanctuary and diverting the vehicle traffic passing through it.
“We are on the job. There are minor hiccups from time to time but we are keeping the schedule for bringing back the tigers here in consultation with the Wildlife Institute of India, the State and the Central authorities,” Mr. Somasekhar asserted.