Despite lockdown, fires ravage forests hinting at sabotage

A whopping 3,996 fires recorded during the last seven days only in Telangana

March 31, 2020 01:19 am | Updated 01:23 am IST - Adilabad

Smoke billowing as a forest burns in Khanapur Forest Division in Nirmal district recently.

Smoke billowing as a forest burns in Khanapur Forest Division in Nirmal district recently.

The lockdown apparently does not work in the forests of Telangana where fires are ravaging nature with unparallelled immunity, according to the Forest Fire Alert System based on satellite remote sensing technology. The State has recorded over 6,000 fires in its forests since November 1 last year, of which a whopping 3,996 were recorded during the last seven days only, both numbers being highest in the country as per the alerts put out by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MODIS) and the Suomi-National Polar Orbiting Partnership Spacecraft-Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite part of the alert system.

The current record is actually lesser in number than the forest fires recorded in the State in the previous year but it is perturbing to note that there was a sudden and sharp spurt in the incidence corresponding with declaration of lockdown in view of COVID-19, indicating towards ‘sabotage’. For example, the Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR) spread over former composite Adilabad district recorded 134 fires between March 1 and 21 while the number jumped to 477 for a much smaller period, between March 22 and 29.

March 29 was the worst of the days as it saw a mindboggling 103 fires raging in the KTR forest. A cursory study of the pattern of forest points this season reveals that the incidence is concentrated in KTR area falling in Nirmal and Adilabad districts mainly in Nirmal and Khanapur Forest Divisions in the former, and Utnoor and Ichoda Forest Divisions in the latter.


According to department officials, the pattern shows some kind of conspiracy in that no compartment in given sections have been ignored by those who are lighting the fires. The pointer is, as usual, towards the beedi leaf contractors as tendu leaf is collected in most of these areas and towards the Multanis of Ichoda and Sirikonda mandals in Adilabad district as a large number of forest fire points have been the area of operation of these habitual timber smugglers.

“The fires have actually started even before the khallas or beedi leaf units were auctioned off. Multanis maybe setting the forest on fire either as a measure of revenge for the crackdown on their activities last year or are doing the bidding of the contractors,” a Forest official opined.

“Only patrolling by some armed force will save precious life in the wilds. The loss extends in hundreds of sq kms of forest area and if translated into money would run into several hundred crores of rupees,” added another official giving his reason for dealing with the phenomenon more stringently.

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