Hyderabad: At a time when Australia is struggling with bushfires, there are questions being raised over how safe forests in the state are from fire accidents.
Going by the State of Forest Report — 2019, 4.21 per cent of forests in Telangana state face a high risk of fire accidents.
As per the report, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) issued to state government as many as 16,508 fire alerts from November 2018 to June 2019. Forests are spread across 26,903 square km in the state.
“Close to 1,700 square km of the forests are prone to fires. Most of the fires are caused by inflammable materials like improperly stubbed cigarettes or beedis,” said a forest officer, requesting anonymity.
However, some high-ranking officers say fire could be ignited on purpose as well.
“The growth of Mahua flowers in the state is high. This prompts certain people to set ablaze a few trees to get the flowers,” said M. Padmanabha Reddy, a retired IFS official. Mahua flowers are used to make liquor and are thus targeted by people.
Forests in the state are mainly dry and deciduous in nature. Leaves start drying up in the summer and fall.
Whenever tribals or passersby throw a cigarette or beedi without fully extinguishing it, there is high likelihood of a forest fire.
In 2018, as many as 13,002 fire alerts were communicated by the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) and the Forest Survey of India.
The forest area that got burnt was spread over 18,000 hectares, which accounts to around 0.70 per cent of the state’s forest area.
Analysis of data related to fire alerts from 2004 to 2018 by the IT wing of the principal chief conservator of forests office here reveals that erstwhile circles of Khammam, Warangal, Nizamabad, Adilabad and Amrabad Tiger Reserve account for a majority of forest fires. According to forest department officials, “The other major cause of forest fires is beedi leaf collection. Beedi leaf contractors send their representatives to select villages and distribute match boxes to villagers for illegally setting fire to forest, so that they can get better quality beedi leaves.
The contractors resort to this quick fix solution instead of undertaking ‘shaktharaasi’, the traditional pruning.”...