Area equivalent to 15 Wankhede stadiums lost in fire at Mumbai’s SGNP
About 150 people, including forest officers and animal welfare groups, ensured that the fires were controlled by 5am on Wednesdaymumbai Updated: Mar 15, 2018 10:27 IST
Forest officers from Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) said 22 hectares of protected forest was charred in fires at six areas inside the park on Tuesday evening. All the fires were doused on Wednesday morning. The green cover lost is equivalent to 15 Wankhede stadiums.About 150 people, including forest officers and animal welfare groups, ensured that the fires were controlled by 5am on Wednesday.
Forest officers said the fires were reported from two different patches of the Yogi hills in Mulund, Nahur, two fires were reported from near Wagle Estate at Yeoor-end of the national park and two large fires were curtailed at Tulsi range and Chenna village near Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.
“We can confirm that most animals, except insects and reptiles, remained unaffected by fires. Even trees were safe. Only the dried leaves and twigs were charred. The fire was started by the locals to clear forest land for agriculture. It is a serious threat to the wildlife,” said Anwar Ahmed, chief conservator of forest and director, SGNP. “We have decided to educate tribals and locals that enter the forest against burning patches and warn them of strict action for violating the law.”
On Tuesday, HT had reported that the forest department caught an offender illegally lighting a fire within the protected forest area of Yeoor, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, on Monday night. Rajesh Kathod Mokashi, 25, was produced before the magistrate court, Thane on Tuesday and was sent for judicial custody.
He added that the support from local non-governmental orgnisations that volunteered to help douse the fire was commendable. “We were lucky to have 60-odd citizen groups that supported our department and climbed these hills to curtail the fire. We salute their efforts to protect Mumbai’s natural resources,” said Ahmed.
NGOs Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) and Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS-Mumbai) assisted forest officers throughout the night and early morning to douse the fire. “This activity was an excellent example of joint conservation efforts,” said Pawan Sharma, president, RAWW. “We appeal to citizens living near the periphery of the forest to keep vigil and report such activities to the SGNP control room so that there is less damage to these areas.”
“Since these fires were atop hills, it became a danger to control them as they were getting intense. However, we used fire beaters, wet sticks and ensured the fire line was cut off,” said Sunish Subramaniam, secretary, PAWS-Mumbai.
80% rise in forest fires across Maharashtra in past three years
HT had reported on December 27 that the number of forest fires in Maharashtra jumped five-fold in three years, with 3,487 incidents reported in 2017, compared to 702 in 2014. While environmentalists said that most fires are deliberate, the forest department said there was no cause for concern as the figures could indicate better surveillance and reporting of fires.