Bengaluru: Clear dry bamboo, lantana to curb forest fires, says experts

World Bank report has pointed out that forest fires happen mainly between March and May.

Bengaluru: With forest fires engulfing thousands of acres in Bandipur forest reserve, experts have called for proper budgetary allocation for fire fighting and regular clearing of inflammable materials such as dry bamboo and lantana before summer sets in.

According to National Remote Sensing Centre estimates over 4,419.54 hectares or approximately 10,000 acres of Bandipur forest got affected by the recent fire. The forest department has maintained that the fire was man-made and there were glaring shortcomings with regards to fire-fighting.

"Forest fire fighting must find precedence in budget planning. What is the use of bringing more areas under tree cover when you cannot save existing forest? My suggestion is that they should earmark more funds for fire fighting," said B.K. Singh, former PCCF, Karnataka.

Moreover, a World Bank report has pointed out that forest fires happen mainly between March and May. The former forest officials suggest that management of inflammable items should be given priority, to avert widespread fire incidents.

In the recent fire two Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed to fight fire and more than 49,000 litres of water was used.

"Inflammable materials such as dry bamboo, lantana, grasses, leaves of deciduous species, especially teak, are potential threat to fire spread and therefore management of these materials should be included in preparatory planning. Large number of fire watchers should be additionally engaged and they should be doing preparatory works before the fire season," Singh explained.

The forest department reportedly is short-staffed. However, Singh pointed out that in the last few years recruitments have taken place in large numbers.

"Forest Department often blames lack of staff and shortage of budgetary allocation whenever forest fire incidents occur. As for staff strength a lot of recruitment and training of frontline staff have taken place during last eight-nine years and the strength is progressively improving. Regarding the budget it is planned by the Forest Department. The main reason for spread of fire in forests is not taking up fireline clearance in December and January. If forests are not cut into fire blocks, the spread of fire is uncontrollable and spread from one block to another," he says.

Singh was also skeptical about the idea of sowing seeds of tree species or even grasses in fire damaged areas. He claimed that it will not work out as lantana will overpower any germination.

"If lantana and dry bamboo are cleared from fire lines, the fire will remain contained and not spread. In fact the fire will be more vigorous due to lantana. Physical removal of lantana from Bandipur, Nagarhole is next to impossible. Their spread should be controlled to control forest fire," he points out.

Bandipur safari, which was suspended following forest fires, was resumed on Friday.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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