NH-44 neglect burns orchards, reserve forests

Farmers, along whose fields the dry grass got burnt, said the fire was lit by NHAI employees and lorry drivers

ANANTAPUR: The neglect on the part of the NHAI in developing greenery on the NH44 road in its Anantapur stretch has resulted in a fire on the main road, spreading to nearby orchards and reserve forests along the Anantapur-Penukonda sector.

Dry grass and plants in traffic islands on NH44 road were burning for the past one week after they were set on fire by miscreants, the adjacent orchards and reserve forest of Penukonda were turned into ashes by fresh fires on Wednesday.

For grass-cutters and cleaning staff, this is an easy way to get rid of weeds during the summer season. But the damage such fires cause is heavy. Among other things, some sweet lemon orchards caught fire and several animals were burnt alive as the flames spread to the forest areas and their vicinity.

Fire is often lit to clear dry grass at road dividers and beside the NH44 Road. The flames spread to adjacent orchards and existing crops and these later hit the reserved forests on Tuesday night.

By the time forest department crew rushed to the spot, massive damage had occurred and the existing greenery was turned into ashes. Hundreds of acres of reserve forests were hit in such fires.

Farmers, along whose fields the dry grass got burnt, said the fire was lit by NHAI employees and lorry drivers.

The administration has failed to check stubble burning in fields. Such rule violations by government employees speak volumes about the officials’ apathy in protecting the environment. The 10- year-old teak and sweet lemon trees near Gajarampally were gutted by fire.

“The administration should take action to stop such instances. Earlier, the fire had damaged hundreds of trees at Garladinne, Pamidi and Gooty,” said Dr Virupaksha Reddy, social activist.

“Frequent fires in Penukonda, Malakavemula, Mudigubba, Gooty, Nagasamudram, Vidapanakallu, Yadiki and Kalyandurg have been blamed for forest denudation. Frequent fires also cause air pollution, mar quality of stream water, threaten biodiversity and spoil the aesthetics of an area, but fire plays an important role in the forest ecosystem dynamics,” he added.

The dry deciduous forests, which receive low rainfall, face 5-6 dry months and the nutrient poor soil is more vulnerable to fire.

Inventories of the Forest Survey of India show that on average 55 per cent of the forest areas in India are affected by fire and 78 per cent by grazing. Little of regeneration occurs in 72 per cent of the forested areas.

The annual losses from forest fires in AP have been estimated at Rs 52 crore. This does not include the loss suffered in the form of biodiversity, nutrient and soil moisture and other intangible benefits. Anantapur witnessed the most-severe forest fires during the summer. An area of 1000 ha was affected by fires.

AP Praja Science Vedika president Suresh Babu lamented that no greenery was developed by NHAI in Anantapur reach during the past one and a half decade though thousands of big trees were cut for the laying of roads.

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