Pulpalli: When the officers of the Kerala Forest Department are scratching their heads over ways to quell incidents of forest fire, their counterparts in Karnataka are ready to respond to the situation with war-like preparedness.
The Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka is well-equipped to take care of the forest habitat from fire. It has laid the groundwork for rapid action in case of a fire outbreak at any corner. In the early weeks of December the authorities demarcated the forest area from the human settlements with man-made 'firelines' or ‘firebreaks’ that help to break the progress of fire inside the forests well in advance. Moreover, each forest range will get the service of a fire unit and they have covered the pits in all major forest roads with mud.
The officials have formulated a swift response mechanism to bring fire units and tankers to any spot of catastrophe and press firefighters into service within minutes, besides keeping a few watchers and vehicles on standby. The infrastructure of Karnataka forest wing is so efficient that it could locate fire even in the neighbouring Kerala forests with the help of towers placed at high altitudes. So when there was a fire at Vandikadavu in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary last year, Karnataka forest sleuths were tipped by the men at Begur watch tower and they sprung into action armed with necessary gears.
When the officials in the neighbouring state of Karnataka are miles ahead in countering the disaster, Wayanad paints a poor picture owing to paucity of funds. There is not even a good road inside the sanctuary capable enough to carry vehicles. The construction of fireline is moving at a snail’s pace. By not appointing sufficient number of fire watchers, the Forest Department continues to display a fair amount of apathy in countering forest fires. The very few watchers available are armed with only a chopper and few tree branches.
It requires accurate monitoring skill and spontaneous action to prevent forest fire rather than get into work after a fire breaks out. Taking into account the annual forest fire occurrences, no effort was made to purchase at least two tankers for the Wayanad sanctuary.
Mostly the fire outbreaks are controlled with the help of Fire and Rescue Services. But nothing could be done in case a fire rages out into deep jungle destroying the precious flora and fauna. However, the Forest Department is keeping its fingers crossed under the notion that chances are less for a fire this time as the state received abundant rainfall this season, and that the forests won't get dried up that may lead to a fire. Quite dismal though, the border areas have already turned arid in the start of January itself.