Mangaluru: The usually lush green hills and valleys of the Western Ghats are turning black and brown this winter thanks to forest fires that have come months too early owing to the poor rainfall that has dried up the grasslands.
Normally seen in summer, the fires began as early as end of December, consuming greenery in Barimale, Hosamane Gudda, Ramana Gudda and Soppina Gudda located between the Arekal Valley and Horatti Valley. Environmentalists fear they will harm not only the flora and fauna but also the small natural springs rising in the ghats owing to their large spread.
"Forest fires are usually seen in summer during April and May every year. But this year they have started very early owing to the lack of rain that has left the grasslands dry. During our recent trek we were shocked to see that many hills have already turned brown and black. This is the first time I have seen forest fires in January," said Sahyadri Sanchaya convenor, Dinesh Holla.
The activist is worried the forest fires will leave animals like the Sambar deer and bison short of food. "They will either starve or come down the hills where they face the threat of being poached," he added worriedly, explaining that estate owners often set grasslands on fire to extend their properties or to clear wild growth. "This fire later goes out of control and consumes forests. Sometimes trekkers too don't douse their camp fires. Although small to begin with, the fire later goes out of control and consumes the entire hill," he said....