Mangaluru: The recent forest fire in Bandipur National Park, which left a forest guard dead and four others injured, was waiting to happen, believe environmentalists, accusing the government of ignoring their plea to modernise the forest department.
Although, forest fires are reported from many parts of the Western Ghats, the department is ill-equipped to tackle them, according to them. Pointing out that most of the fires are manmade, they have listed their concerns about the department’s lack of preparedness to deal with them in a memorandum to the forest minister, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and the principal secretary of the forest department.
“We have been writing to the government for the past eight years to modernise the forest department, but nobody seems to care. There are only 3,994 forest guards and 1,170 watchers to monitor the state’s forests spread over 38,720 sqkm,” says NECF convener, Shashidhar Shetty.
Suggesting that the department use helicopters to carry out various tasks in its jurisdiction, he says the forests could be divided into 15 zones for better administration. “An exclusive Forest Security Force on the lines of BSF should be deployed to protect the forests and the helicopter used to extinguish fires, take medical care to wild animals and sow seeds in the forests,” he adds.
The department should make use of satellites and CCTV cameras to protect the forests, he says....