1,500 forest fires reported across Maharashtra in 5 weeks | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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1,500 forest fires reported across Maharashtra in 5 weeks

As per data from the FSI’s real-time forest fire mapping, the state has recorded 2,488 forest fire alerts since January this year

mumbai Updated: Mar 28, 2018 10:31 IST
Badri Chatterjee
On March 13, four deliberately lit forest fires were reported from protected forest areas inside and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai.
On March 13, four deliberately lit forest fires were reported from protected forest areas inside and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai.(HT file )

Forest officials said there has been a significant rise in forest fire incidents in the past five weeks (last week of February onwards), as more than 300 cases have been reported per week. The numbers constitute to more than 40% (3,487) cases reported in 2017. Most of the fires were man-made.

“Based on data received from the Forest Survey of India (FSI), we documented more than 1,500 cases of forest fires from the entire state between February and March so far,” said RS Yadav, additional principal chief conservator of forest (protection), state forest department, in-charge of controlling forest fires.

He added, “Forests are being burnt deliberately to clear land for agriculture purposes. Only a handful of cases are relate to fires starting owing to rise in temperature.”

As per data from the FSI’s real-time forest fire mapping, Maharashtra has recorded 2,488 forest fire alerts since January this year — the highest in India. The number for the entire country is 22,128. This means Maharashtra has recorded 11% of all forest fire alerts in India. FSI data also revealed that Maharashtra had the highest number of forest fires in the last seven days with 1,023 alerts, followed by Madhya Pradesh (832 alerts) and Chhattisgarh (647 alerts).

A complaint filed by citizens’ group Watchdog Foundation with the state, on Monday, regarding recurring man-made forest fires (about 250) along the Western Ghats, parts of Panvel in Raigad district to Ratnagiri, states more than 1,000 acres of forest land was charred in the first two weeks of March.

“The situation is alarming because the number of forest fires reported in the past two months is more than those reported in the past two years. This It is disastrous for animals, as they will be forced to leave their natural habitat and enter human settlements. The government needs to initiate action at once,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation.

Satellite images from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have showed a rise in forest fires during the first week of March along the Western Ghats. Details published by the United Nations – Office of Outer Space Affairs – revealed that between 6 and 11 March, 32 forest fires were detected near Bodi Hills, Ahamalai, Kurangani and Kottagudi, all located in the same expanse of the ghats.

Senior forest officials also said lack of manpower is a cause of concern. “In some cases, one range forest officer is in charge of many hectares of forests. To control such fires, more manpower is needed,” said P Srivastava, additional principal chief conservator of forest, Information and Technology, state forest department. “This issue is not just confined to India, but every country is facing similar problems to curtail forest fires.”

On March 13, four deliberately lit forest fires were reported from protected forest areas inside and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). On March 10, nine trekkers died in a forest fire on the Kurangani Hills in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district. The trekkers had entered the hills without prior permission from the state government.

“Most fires, which are being lit up, are owing biotic pressures on forests such as dependence of people on natural resources. Only a few forest fires are natural. The problems needs to be addressed through community participation. Joint forest management communities (including locals) need to develop a mechanism to spread awareness, build watchtowers and cut off the fire as soon as possible,” said Shailesh Tembhurnikar, apccf (conservation), state forest department.