Telangana: Higher fire-risk zones worry forest officials
Deccan Chronicle| Kiran Reddy Althuru
About 18,000 hectares of forest area was burnt last year.
Dry deciduous and scrub forests are most affected by forest fires.
Hyderabad: Forest officials of Telangana state are concerned about the large number of fire risk zones in the state. Collecting data of fire accidents of the last five years from the Nasa website, the GIS cell of the Telangana State Forest Department has created maps of fire-risk zones in Telangana forests.
There are about 1,106 compartments, ranging from 8 sq km to 12 sq km in size in the forests that are considered to be high fire-risk compartments. Some 1,279 habitats and 2,530 stretches of road in Telangana state are in the high fire risk zones.
The forest department will take up targeted interventions like creation of new fire lines in the fire risk compartments, awareness camps in vulnerable villages and strict vigil on tourists and villagers passing through the roads and entering the forests.
During 2018, some 18,000 hectares of forest was burnt. Analysis of data of fire alerts from 2004 to 2018 by the Information Technology wing of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest’s office shows that the erstwhile circles of Khammam, Warangal, Nizamabad, Adilabad and Amrabad Tiger Reserve accounted for a majority of forest fires in the state.
The fire season begins in January and will continue till June. Most fires occur in February and March. Dry deciduous and scrub forests are most affected by forest fires.
According to the Nasa website, in 2017 there were about 17,847 fire locations in Telangana, with an average burnt area of two hectares per location. The fires incidents increased in 2018, to 20,610. However, the average burnt area was brought down to 1.5 hectares per fire spot by the prompt and concentrated efforts of forest officials. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) were able to detect forest fires early and could send immediate alerts to the mobiles of the concerned officials together with the geo-coordinates of the location of the fire, enabling them to take prompt action.
A state forest fire monitoring cell has been established in the GIS cell of the head office from January 1 to reduce forest fires by 75 per cent.
Speaking to this newspaper, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (IT) P. Raghuveer said, "Apart from deploying a rapid action strike force in vulnerable areas, purchasing of fire fighting equipment and creating fire lines, we have decided to involve civil society in a big way in prevention, early detection and control of forest fires. This year we have so far registered 2,970 forest officials and officials of other line departments to receive mobile fire alerts from FSI (forest survey of India). We also welcome village volunteers living near the forests to help fight the fire."
The mobile numbers of the volunteers will be added to enable them to receive fire alerts on a daily basis. "We have trained all our teams last week to fight fires scientifically. We are sure that the forest fires will be brought down by 75 per cent with the whole-hearted involvement of all stakeholders," Mr Raghuveer added.