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Karnataka: Forest fires have gutted over 36,000 acres in 5 years

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Bengaluru, Mar 05: With temperatures rising, forest fires have once again begun in many parts of Karnataka with an estimated of over 15,000 acres of forest land being burnt since last week.

Photo credit: PTI

Reports claim that the fires have gutted 35,891 forest land in Karnataka in the last five years. This year so far, 17,297 acres were burned in 985 incidents of forest fire, second to 2017-18 when 925 incidents burned 17,240 acres, says a Times of India report.

The most severely affected areas in the state are Belagavi, Chamarajanagar, Mysuru, Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Shivamogga, says the report.

The current phase of hot and dry weather in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has made the region extremely vulnerable to fires, an analysis of weather data put out by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) suggests.

At least 372 fires were reported from different forest areas in Karnataka between Monday and Tuesday, while 415 were reported from Tamil Nadu with a majority located in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, according to Forest Survey of India (FSI) data.

Contrary to the popular belief that all forest fires are natural and occur due to lightning strikes, most forest fires are manmade, say experts. They are either deliberately or accidentally caused by persons trying to collect non-timber forest produce like beedi leaf or to encroach upon lands for cultivation.

Fires have a devastating effect on the forests and turns huge areas into ashen deserts. The extent of loss of revenue is unimaginable, but more important is the irretrievable loss in the biological and ecological areas.

Hundreds of species birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and other micro organisms are wiped out in the fires apart from the killing of the micro flora. Ground fires also burn down useful wild herbivore forage and replace edible species with inedible exotic invader species like Chromolaena weed. This can upset the natural composition of the whole forest itself.

The forest fires can be eliminated by effective prevention and vigilance. Even to this day the most effective prevention method of fighting fires is the elaborate network of fire lines and continuous vigil by the protection staff during the crucial fire season.

However, despite continuous effort, the Karnataka forest department has been a failure in preventing the disastrous fire.

Though many forest officials maintain that the fire is due to vengeance and greed in Bandipur and other areas, it is time that the department needs to be further strengthened by dividing the forest into compartments.

It may be recalled that the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has ranked Karnataka state as No. 1 in the number of forest fire cases in the year 2018. With 77 forest fires in the Karnataka tops the list, then follows Maharashtra with 34 cases.

The FSI is a central government agency that monitors forest fires using satellite-based remote sensing technology.

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