Andhra Pradesh has witnessed 9,412 fire incidents within its forests, which have burnt 4,606.45 hectares of jungles. (File photo:PTI)
VIJAYAWADA: From November 2021 to March 2022, Andhra Pradesh has witnessed 9,412 fire incidents within its forests, which have burnt 4,606.45 hectares of jungles.
Forest authorities say in March alone, 7,466 fires have been reported due to scorching heatwave conditions, mainly in Kadapa, Anantapur, Atmakur, Markapur, Giddalur, Proddatur, Nandyal, Rajampet and other forest divisions of Rayalaseema area. Officials say as several regions, including Anantapur, Kadapa and other areas in the Rayalaseema region, witnessed heavy rainfall last year; it resulted in heavy growth of grass. With the rise in day temperatures, this grass has dried up and caught fire, burning down huge swathes of forest cover.
Authorities fear forests in parts of East and West Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts may witness fire incidents in ensuing April and May. Fires subside once monsoon enters the state in June. Rains also help regenerate forest cover.
Officials say firelines of three-meter width have been formed in vulnerable areas based on five-years of experience. These will serve as fire barriers in case accidental fires break out. Controlled burning of dried vegetation is also undertaken in early hours of the day for a few hours to control spread of forest fires. Trenches of varied sizes are dug based on need, which serve as breakers of forest fires. These turn into percolation tanks to help boost up groundwater tables when it rains.
Forest authorities say with help of AP State Disaster Management Authority and NGOs, they are taking up awareness drives among villagers within and around forests to sensitise them about fires. Rallies are taken out and "Burra Katha" and folk songs sung on preventing and controlling forest fires.
Foresters say the biggest threat emerges from local villagers, who collect firewood from forests and also cattle grazers. These people tend to be careless about throwing burning cigarette and beedi butts, which end up causing forest fires. Some people even deliberately light fires to clear forest areas for cultivation of the burnt-down land subsequently.
AP Fire Monitoring Cell nodal officer and DFO M. Ravi Shankar Sharma said, "Though the number of fire incidents being reported this season is relatively less when compared with the last season, scorching heat is causing more fire incidents; mainly in parts of Rayalaseema region as of now. We are fully geared up to control and prevent fire incidents in the state by all means."