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Core areas of Bandipur hit by forest fire, say experts

The fire that had spread to a vast area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka in the past few days has been brought under “total control”, the state forest department said Tuesday.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2019 23:46 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rescue officials assist in extinguishing a forest fire at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, in Bandipur. Image for representation.
Rescue officials assist in extinguishing a forest fire at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, in Bandipur. Image for representation.(PTI file photo)
         

The fire that had spread to a vast area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka in the past few days has been brought under “total control”, the state forest department said Tuesday.

“The fire is under total control. It is not even on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border,” principal chief conservator of forest C Jayaram (wildlife) told PTI.

Wildlife experts said, most of the core area of Bandipur has been affected by the fire that began on the February 21.

The success could be achieved with the help of the Indian Air Force, which deployed two helicopters that ferried several gallons of water from a nearby reservoir to douse the raging flames.

Punati Sridhar, principal chief conservator of forest, also said the blaze has been brought under total control, according to PTI.

M D Madhusudan, a scientist from the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), a non-governmental organisation, said in a tweet that the extent of forest fires at Bandipur until Tuesday appears to be more than 17,000 acres (69 sq km). The total area of Bandipur reserve is about 870 sq km.

“As fuel loads, likely contributed by invasive Lantana build up, subsequent fires especially under windy conditions became insanely difficult to contain,” he tweeted, along with satellite images of the Bandipur reserve.

The current phase of hot and dry weather in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has made the region extremely vulnerable to fires, an analysis of weather data put out by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) suggests.

At least 372 fires were reported from different forest areas in Karnataka between Monday and Tuesday, while 415 were reported from Tamil Nadu with a majority located in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, according to Forest Survey of India (FSI) data. The FSI is a central government agency that monitors forest fires using satellite-based remote sensing technology.

Apart from Bandipur, the FSI map shows fires in Belgaum, Uttar Kannada, Dharwar, Dakshin Kannad, Kodagu and Chikmaglur districts in Karnataka.

IMD scientists said interior Karnataka, interior Tamil Nadu and Rayalseema are experiencing extremely dry conditions. “The relative humidity is between 50% and 60%, while the maximum temperature is ranging between 34 and 38 degrees. Wind direction is variable blowing at about 10 to 15 kmph,” said Charan Singh, scientist at IMD.

According to IMD, the 2018 northeast monsoon season (October-December) rainfall over the country as a whole was substantially below normal (56% of LPA—long period average) and there was hardly any rain after December in this region.

The National Remote Sensing Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation carried out an assessment of the area affected by the fire. On February 25, it estimated the extent of burnt area to be about 4,419.54 hectares or 10,920 acres.

While the impact of the fire on the wildlife is yet to be assessed, experts claim the ecological impact on flora is very severe. “The area burnt is very large (17,000 acres) as per records, hence the impact is also very large. Though the mortality of larger animals may be smaller, the indirect impacts of these fires are devastating,” said Sanjay Gubbi, a Bengaluru-based wildlife biologist.

“Frequent fires in an area change diversity and floral composition with only fire resistance species such as axel wood tree, and Indian laburnum surviving in such areas.”

“In areas like Bandipur, it is very hard to douse fires once it burns at the scale as it has happened now. Hence, prevention is a better solution,” added Gubbi.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Feb 26, 2019 23:46 IST

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