Forest fire alarm goes off constantly in Karnataka

Dried forests and parched grass have turned the State’s forests into tinderboxes — so much so that Karnataka tops in forest fire alerts detected in the country via satellites.

However, while the fires in the South Karnataka reserves have dominated the headlines, the forest fire monitoring system shows that it is the forests in the upper Western Ghats that have seen the highest number of incidents.

According to the Forest Survey of India, the State received a staggering 4,699 forest fire alerts between February 1 and 23 — more than double the alerts received by Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat, through which the Western Ghats pass. In contrast, through the relatively cooler days of January, just 86 alerts were received.

The alerts are sent by the FSI based on the fires seen through two sensors onboard two earth-observing satellites launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 2006. From this year, the FSI has been using the SNPP-VIIRS sensor, which has better resolution (375 m x 375 m) compared to MODIS (1 km x 1 km), allowing for more accurate sensing of smoke and fire in forest areas. The information — including details of geographical coordinates and size of fire — is passed on to numerous forest officials and even beat-level forest personnel who subscribe to the alerts.

However, the number of alerts does not signify the number of incidents. For instance, during the blaze at Bandipur which killed one forest officer, injured four others and charred more than 700 acres of forest, the system sent 218 alerts on February 18 and 19. Interestingly, as forest officers fought the blaze, the FSI sent 1,886 alerts of major and minor fires across the forests of the State.

Uttara Kannada, Shivamogga top

Surprisingly, Uttara Kannada and Shivamogga districts top in the number of alerts. Nearly 60% of the alerts have gone to these districts, significantly higher than the 14% that went to forest officers working in and around Bandipur and Nagarahole tiger reserves.

“The number of alerts may be high, but the size of the fires shown is very small, sometimes barely 50 sq m,” said Ashok B. Basarkod, Chief Conservator of Forests, Canara Circle, which covers the forests of Uttara Kannada. “Agricultural fires, roadside burning and control fires are also recorded. There are small fires within forests and we verify every alert sent,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 1:57:17 PM |

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