Karnataka

Forest officials bracing up for fire lines ahead of schedule

preparedness:Fire lines being burnt by Forest Department personnel at Bandipur as a precaution against forest fires.— PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM  

It is during the summer months that Bandipur feels the heat of forest fires. But this year, with deficient rainfall and soaring temperatures, authorities are bracing up early, with ‘fire lines’ being burnt ahead of schedule.

A ‘fire line’, also called fire break, is the practice of burning a strip of vegetation and clearing the land so that if there’s a fire, the flames don’t spread.

Traditional practice

The bald patch of land cuts off further combustion. This is the traditional practice adopted to fight forest fires in India. In the event of a fire, it is confined to that particular block or area and will not spread. Fire lines are demarcated around a swathe of forest land covering a beat or less, and the vegetation is normally burnt during the onset of winter as the moisture, including early morning mist, helps in controlled burning. But deficient rain and soaring temperatures has created ‘summer-like’ conditions, spurring the authorities to activate fire lines in October itself.

“The heat is severe and the vegetation is drying due to lack of adequate rain. That’s why we have taken up burning of fire lines early,” said Mardimani, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Bandipur.

May affect wildlife

The length of the fire line in Bandipur is estimated to be around 2,000 to 2,400 km, encompassing nearly 200 km in each of the 11 ranges. Though the water bodies are full, the evaporation loss is high thanks to the dry conditions. It is very likely that the wildlife may face water stress even before the onset of summer. Bandipur has a history of forest fires that are reported with unceasing regularity every year and this has been abetted by the proliferation of dry weeds like lantana and epatorium that are swamping the vegetation. Omkara and Hediyala ranges are sensitive in view of the forest topography as they are dry deciduous forests and more prone to fire.

Changing pattern

Though fires help facilitate the sprouting of fresh shoots of vegetation, repeated blazes are known to degrade the soil. There are concerns of habitat degradation as the herbivores abandon the landscape in search of better pastures, and the carnivores are forced to follow them.

Bandipur, which is spread over 878 sq. km, is contiguous to Nagarahole, which is also prone to fires during summer.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 4:36:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/Forest-officials-bracing-up-for-fire-lines-ahead-of-schedule/article16079227.ece

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