The summer showers in parts of Mysuru and Chamarajanagar in the last week of March and the beginning of April have provided a reprieve from forest fires to both Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks.
Bandipur was severely affected this year and vast swathes of forests were burnt in fires during the onset of summer. A forest guard lost his life while extinguishing fire, and 320 of the nearly 370 waterholes had dried up owing to the severity of the drought and the relentless heat. While the severity of the heat and the failure of rain last year left the waterbodies depleted, the forest fires ravaged the vegetation, resulting in fodder scarcity and making it a double whammy
But the region has now received moderate to heavy rain, uniform and widespread across Mysuru and Chamarajanagar districts. “Thanks to the recent rain, the threat of a fresh outbreak of forest fires has considerably abated. The resultant moisture will stave off any fire for at least another few weeks, by which time the pre-monsoon showers are expected. And monsoon will lash the region in June,” said T. Heeralal, Conservator of Forests and director of Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
The showers have also helped replenish some of the waterbodies in the forests. According to Mr. Heeralal, at least 40 waterholes have recovered considerably and this will be a great relief for the animals. In the peak summer, the Forest Department had operated solar-powered borewells in a few places inside the national park to replenish the waterholes. However, parts of Omkara and Kundagere, which happen to be the drier portions of the national park, are yet to recover from the drought despite the recent rain.
Notwithstanding the abatement of the fire threat, the authorities plan to retain the services of the temporary watchers recruited during the onset of summer for firefighting operations. “Nearly 300 temporary watchers were recruited and they will continue to be deployed in the forests for at least two more weeks,” an official in Bandipur said.
The situation is similar in the adjoining Nagarahole, with showers in Metikuppe, Antharsanthe, Veeranahosahalli and parts of D.B. Kuppe. But unlike Bandipur, Nagarahole – which has 142 waterholes — is also served by the Lakshmana Thirtha river, the Nagarahole stream, the Kabini backwaters and the Taraka reservoir. Hence, water scarcity is not as major an issue as the threat of forest fire, which has now abated.