Officials of the Tirupati Wildlife Circle have initiated measures to control forest fires in the Seshachalam hills by deploying over 100 watchers to maintain the existing firelines and creation of new ones.
Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF-Tirupati Wildlife), T.V. Subba Reddy told The Hindu that special surveillance had been set up at the Balupalle, Bhakarapeta and Tirupati ranges, with prime focus on beats vulnerable to forest fires.
He said about a dozen theerthams (sacred falls) in and around Tirumala and in the forests stretching towards Kadapa district had been identified as fire-prone areas. He said the forest routes towards the theerthams and the footpaths to Tirumala from Srivarimettu and Alipiri generally recorded fires during summer.
Threat from red
The official said extra vigilance had been mounted in view of the tendency of the red sanders smugglers and woodcutters entering the Seshachalam hills setting forest fires to divert the attention of the combing parties and the forest-watchers.
Fire-watchers had been instructed to observe the movements of the villagers rearing cattle and sheep in the forest fringe areas.
The official said the shepherds would often set grasslands abutting the forest zone on fire.
They torch the dry grass from March every year for fresh grass from summer showers and the monsoon rain. These fires would naturally spread to the hill slopes and the valleys.
The fire-watchers, mostly local people from the villages surrounding the Seshachalam hills, had been deployed since January and they would continue to work till mid-June. Compared to the previous years, the forest cover in the Seshachalam hills this year has been maintaining its lush green levels, thanks to the rain in December. The DCF said in addition to the deployment of the fire-watchers working under the beat officers, steps would also be initiated to create awareness among the people living in the fringe villages about the fires and their cooperation would be sought in curbing them.