Staff crunch that fuels infernos

Combustible materials, shortage of staff hit fire control

Updated - February 25, 2017 11:56 pm IST

Published - February 25, 2017 07:07 pm IST - KALPETTA

It was an ordeal for the wildlife managers of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) when forest fire broke out at three of the five forest ranges of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) on the Kerala-Karnataka border recently.

For the past one week, the entire forest personnel of the Wayanand sanctuary have been camping in the border area, especially in the Kalkara and Enbegur forest ranges of the Bandipur reserve, to avert the spread of the fire. The Bandipur fire has triggered a large-scale exodus of wild animals to the Wayanad sanctuary. At this time of the year there used to be migration of wildlife to the Wayanad sanctuary for fodder and water, and but the present exodus seems to be a massive one.

Man-animal conflict

Forest officials fear that the mass exodus of wildlife may result in more incidents of man-animal conflict in the Kerala part of the forests.

The Kerala officials could so far arrest the spread of wildfire to the State forests.

The shortage of frontline staff and lack of modern firefighting equipment put them in a fix but they could mange to avert a major disaster, thanks to the timely strategies adopted by them.

“Combustible materials, including withered undergrowth, accumulated in the forest areas owing to the fewer forest fire incidents over the past two years, dearth of monsoon and summer rain, and a considerable increase in temperature during daytime pose a serious threat to the wildlife habitat this year. Just a spark can cause an uncontrollable disaster,” P. Dhaneshkumar, warden, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.

“The role of the frontline staff during the fire season is very crucial, but three of the four sanctioned posts of Range Forest Officers (RFO) of the sanctuary is still vacant,” says M. Manoharan, vice president, Kerala Forest Protective Staff Association.

The range forest officer (RFO) of the Sulthan Bathery forest range has been given additional charge of the Muthanga, Kurichiyad and Tholpetty forest ranges. Thirty-two of the 87 sanctioned posts of beat forest officers (BFO) are vacant in the sanctuary.

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