Spectre of fire haunts Sabarimala forests

Scenes from the Sabarimala forests where the Forest department is implementing a plan to manage wildfires.

Scenes from the Sabarimala forests where the Forest department is implementing a plan to manage wildfires.

After being caught in a devastating series of floods and landslides during the just concluded monsoon, the vast swaths of forest land up the mountains of Pathanamthitta have now been taken over by the spectre of wind-driven flames.

According to officials, the extremely hot, dry season that has set in over the region has brought the season of wildfires much earlier with the vegetation in several areas desiccating into perfect tinder, giving the forest officials and those living on the forest fringes sleepless nights. Adding to their concerns, instances of wildfires have begun pouring in from different locations including Konni, Chittar, Seethathodu and Perumbetty.

Taking note of the situation, the authorities have now come up with a fire management plan for the two forest divisions- Ranni and Konni, which stipulate measures from controlled burning to deployment of special squads and clearing of fire lines. Further, Fire control units have been stationed across the various forest stations under the two divisions.

“The plan , prepared after a three-month long survey and data analysis process, received an approval from the State Government in September last year and is being implemented with the help of the local populace,” said Jayakumar Sarma, Divisional Forest Officer, Ranni.

As part of the plan, a fire-gang brigade comprising about 500 members drawn from local residents including tribals has been deployed across the 900 sq km wide area under the Ranni division. These fire gangs plan their moves based on the directions from the Forest Division Office, which is being alerted on fire occurrences by the Forest Survey of India through satellite mapping. Control rooms too have been opened, both at the divisional and local levels

Locations that are highly-prone to wild fires too have been identified, where controlled burning is being executed under official supervision.

While the works to clear the fire line too have been expedited, the project is yet to gather momentum in the plantation areas that abut the forests. The department, meanwhile, also seeks to coordinate with the Fire and Rescue Department in bringing the conflagrations under control and is also organising awareness programmes along the forest fringes.

“The blazes this season have been limited to certain locations, causing a limited loss of vegetation. But with the green bushes turning bone dry in more areas, the situation is only likely to worsen , especially in areas with relatively high-levels of habitation,” noted an official.

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 12:57:19 pm |