Four fires at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai; forest officials suspect arson
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Four fires at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai; forest officials suspect arson

The officials said the fires were under control

mumbai Updated: Mar 14, 2018 10:07 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
The fist fire was reported at 4pm on Tuesday.(Praful Gangurde)

Four forest fires were reported from protected forest areas in and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) on Tuesday.

According to the forest department, a fire started at Mulund and Tulsi at 4pm. Within an hour, two fires were reported at Wagale Estate, Yeoor — the first from Ram Nagar and second from Hanuman Nagar. A fourth fire was reported from the periphery of the national park around Aarey, Goregaon, around 6pm.

“These are all man-made fires that have been lit purposely to clear vegetation of forest lands,” said Anwar Ahmed, chief conservator of forest, SGNP. “We have deputed around 60 forest officials to different parts of the national park to douse these fires. This is a threat to the wildlife of the park and we are trying our best to ensure they are doused at the earliest. The fires are under control.”

He added that for the first time SGNP caught a local resident lighting a fire in the Yeoor range on Monday. Rajesh Kathod Mokashi, 25, was produced before the magistrate court, Thane, on Tuesday and was sent to judicial custody till Wednesday.

“It is very difficult for us to identify the source of these fires because we are only alerted when the fire has been lit. However, with this evidence confirming culprits lighting these fires, we have to increase patrolling and better protect these areas,” said Ahmed.

Shailesh Deore, range forest officer, Tulsi range said that the fire at Mulund was under control. “Since these fires are atop hills, it is difficult to douse them early. We are using fire-beaters and trying to cut off the fire line based on the wind direction. We expect the fire to be doused by 10pm,” he said. “A total of 35-40 forest officers are at the spot.”

Animal welfare officers too, rushed to the park to ensure the fire was doused. “The fire was massive and out of control. Our teams within the national park are helping the department put it out,” said Pawan Sharma, president, Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare.

Forest officers from Yeoor range of SGNP said the two fires were doused by 7pm Tuesday. “Three-foot-high dry leaves and twigs are catching the fire even with a small spark. Some of the cases over the past two days have been due to high temperatures as well. However, cigarettes and intentional fires is the main cause,” said Sanjay Waghmode, range forest officer, Yeoor.

Man caught lighting fire at Yeoor forests

In a first, 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 for one day.

“We appeal to citizens living in high-rises to alert the forest department on witnessing fires within the park. Along with hot weather conditions, the tribal hamlets are lighting fires, which is a major cause of concern for the wildlife,” said Sanjay Waghmode, range forest officer, Yeoor.

First Published: Mar 14, 2018 03:34 IST