Vast swathes of Bandipur forestland destroyed in major fire

Updated - February 24, 2019 11:18 am IST

Published - February 23, 2019 10:56 pm IST - Mysuru

Bandipur: Silhouette of a bird seen against flames of a forest fire at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, in Bandipur, Saturday, Feb 23, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI2_23_2019_000174B)

Bandipur: Silhouette of a bird seen against flames of a forest fire at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, in Bandipur, Saturday, Feb 23, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI2_23_2019_000174B)

A major fire has reduced vast swathes of forestland to ashes in Bandipur. The authorities are trying to douse the raging flames that seem to have gone out of control.

The safari was suspended on Saturday following the outbreak of fire near the tourism zone and the reception area in the Bandipur range. Movement of vehicles on the national highway connecting Mysuru and Ooty, and cutting through the national park, was severely affected.

An alert from NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (NASA-FIRMS) said that 21 fires or hotspots were detected during the satellite overpass and processed by it on Saturday.

Forest fires have been reported in recent days in Kundakere and surrounding areas. The authorities have pegged the extent of damage to around 60 acres. But Saturday’s fire is reckoned to be the biggest and the damage is feared to be extensive. Other places where fire was reported in Bandipur were Kaniyanapura, Kalligowdanahalli, and Maginahalli.

Bandipur: A group of deer seen after a forest fire at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, in Bandipur, Saturday, Feb 23, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI2_23_2019_000179B)

Bandipur: A group of deer seen after a forest fire at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, in Bandipur, Saturday, Feb 23, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI2_23_2019_000179B)

 

The authorities suspended bus services to Gopalaswamy Betta, which draws a large number of visitors on weekends and holidays, and traffic continued to pile up at the Melkamanahalli Gate.

The vehicles lined up from Melkamanahalli, which is the check-post from where the boundary of the tiger reserve commences, and people witnessed dramatic scenes of billowing smoke enveloping the area in the backdrop of raging flames.

Though there had been sporadic fires in different sections of the national park, they were relatively minor. According to officials, the blazing fire was being fanned by high winds and dousing the flames was a challenge. Gundre, Begur, Molyuru, and Kundgere are fire-prone ranges and, in addition to nearly 300 watchers, 130 forest guards on probationary training have been deployed.

The authorities had fears of intense fire this year as heavy rains during monsoon had led to luxurious growth of vegetation. But given the nature of the national park, a bulk of which is dry deciduous in nature, it was feared that the dry wood coupled with lantana, which covers over 50% of the forests, had turned the forest into a tinderbox where a small spark could trigger a massive fire.

The adjoining Nagarahole is bone dry and the authorities doused a minor ground fire at Solepura in the territorial range as they feared it could spread. “The prevailing wind is dangerous and hence our staff have stomped out fires reported even on private lands outside the forest boundary as they could easily spread,” said Chief Conservator of Forests K.M. Narayanaswamy.

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