Fire in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary ‘under control’ after 3 days: Goa minister
The Goa forest minister said the fire was successfully doused after the Indian Navy conducted an aerial survey and the state forest department deployed guards to douse the blaze
A fire in Goa’s Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, which started three days ago, was brought under control late on Monday evening, the state’s forest minister Vishwajit Rane said on Tuesday. He, however, asked everyone to remain alert, saying it might start again due to the breeze.
Rane said that it was only a ‘ground fire’ and by and large didn’t engulf the large trees -- a claim that was disputed by locals who said that large tracts of both virgin forest as well as cashew plantations falling within the sanctuary were reduced to ashes by the blaze.
He said the fire was a case of arson, probably arising out of either a human-lit fire that went out of control or that was accidentally hit by a spark.
“This is a man-lit fire. There seems to be no other explanation. We have discussed it a lot and the report will come. At the same time this is under control and for the first time (in three days) we were to bring it completely under control. But because of the breeze there is a chance that it might restart,” Rane said.
The administration called in the help of the Indian Navy who conducted an aerial survey and reported that fires were blazing in at least eight locations within the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary including the villages of Satrem, Chorla, Charvane, Querim among others.
The Indian Navy deployed a Dronier Aircraft to ascertain the ground situation and the extent of fire areas in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary: A total of eight active fire locations were reported by the Navy consequent to an aerial survey.
“On all locations, the forest department acted and by late evening the fire was doused successfully. There has been no major loss to the flora and fauna,” Rane said. “The forest team has been deployed everywhere. We have taken help from the collectors (district administration) and the Navy and this is a ground fire and the trees have not been burnt,” he added.
However, Rajendra Kerkar, an environmentalist and resident of Querim, said, “The fire has been raging for three days and the forest and fire departments were unable to prevent it. It exposes the lack of preparedness from the two departments in their inability to control the blazes at a time when the state government is stressing on the importance of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and battle with Karnataka for the waters of the Mhadei River is ongoing.”
Goa, much like the rest of the country, has been witnessing above average temperatures since February with the maximum temperature ranging between five to seven degree above normal for this time of the year.
“The temperature is not completely an unnatural phenomenon. We have experienced it in the past as well, but certainly this time the highest temperature is frequent. February was comparatively hotter… The lower humidity value at 20-30 per cent is possibly leading to dry grass and forest fires,” India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist Rahul M told local media.
Fires have also been blazing at several other locations in the state with the fire department receiving more than 188 calls reporting uncontrolled fire incidents across the state. Wildfires have claimed three vehicles besides also scouring through hillsides, residential houses and other areas in the state -- incidents that are likely only to increase as the summer rages.