TIRUPATI: The scorching summer heat has yet again brought to the fore the forest fire menace in Seshachalam biosphere. This disturbs the entire region’s biodiversity, ecology and environment. Nearly half a dozen incidents of forest fires were reported in the last two weeks in Seshachalam forests that spread across Chittoor, Kadapa and Nellore districts.
However, timely intervention by forest and fire services personnel are bringing down the flames regularly and protecting the forest-belt from wildfires. Forest fires are a regular phenomenon in these forests and pose a great threat to forest wealth, flora and fauna.
According to Forest Survey of India (FSI), based on the forest inventory records, 54.40% of forests in the country are exposed to occasional fires, 7.49% to moderately frequent fires and 2.405 % to high incidence levels, while 35.71 % have not yet been exposed to fires of any real significance.
Among the top five states with the highest number of FFP/alerts between November 1 of last year and this Friday, Andhra Pradesh occupied the fifth position. During this period, forests in Anantapur circle, Tirupati wildlife circle, FDPT Srisailam circle, Rajahmundry circle, Kurnool circle, Visakhapatnam circle and Guntur circle, received 13,673 FFP/alerts (SNPP-11,651 and MODIS-2,022), as per FSI data.
Experts say the prolonged dry spell has led to drying up of vast tracts of Seshachalam forest cover, which in turn caused fire. This is aggravated by an increase in human activity. Forest fire is also a most common hazard in the Tirupati and Tirumala forest belt, comprising nearly 3250 hectares, that comes under the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD).
In view of the soaring temperatures, the TTD forest wing has stepped up measures to prevent fire in the forest area under its control. They have taken precautionary measures like strengthening watch towers, deployment of additional staff, fire lines and fire-fighting squads kept on ground to prevent and control incidences of wildfire and to meet any contingency
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, TTD divisional forest officer (DFO) Chandra Sekhar said “Apart from setting up four 40 feet high watchtowers in Tirupati and five towers in the Tirumala forest belt spread over 2950 hectares, forest fire-fighting squads equipped with advanced fire-fighting equipment and watch tower staff have been posted on a round-the-clock basis to spot smoke.”
Whenever the watchtower staff sees any smoke or fire, they will alert the squads, who will reach the spot and use blowers and the other equipment to remove dry leaves and douse off the fire, the DFO added.
According to him, TTD is also constantly receiving data from FSI, which uses satellite-based remote sensing technology and GIS tools for preventing and managing fires through the creation of early warning in fire prone areas, monitoring fires on real time basis and estimation of burn scars. The TTD has also dug up over 50 km of fire lines of 10x20 metres size amidst the thick shrubs and forest trees in order to contain the spread of the fire....