Denying the rumours about the frequent forest fires in the state during the lockdown, the Telangana Forest Department has made it clear that it is fully alert to the fire hazards this season and that the staff are working hard even during the lockdown.
Forest Department officials said that there was no truth in the propaganda that thousands of fire accidents are happening in the forests. This year forest fires have been thoroughly verified by the field staff and the forest department is taking measures to prevent and mitigate the fires. There were 12,292 accidents in 2018 and 12,255 in 2019 as of April 16th for the last two years while satellites have recorded 10,415 fires so far this year. Thus, there is a 15% decrease compared to the previous two years.
The officials have analyzed over 9,595 (92 per cent) of the fire alerts at the field level and prepared a report according to which fire took place in over 113 areas as recorded this year. There were 245 fires were reported outside the forest areas.
Further, they said, Forest Department work 2519 nos (Advance Operations for next year planting), has also been reported as fire by satellites. But all of these are actually advance operations carried out by the department. Also, the department creates fire lines to prevent them from spreading. Even during the said operations, garbage was burnt and 314 nos such fires were recorded. Out of these, 89 fires were actually for maintenance of old fire lines.
Farmers in RoFR Patta lands are putting fire as part of crop preparations which account for 268 such alerts. Even in encroached forest lands which are under occupation has reported 314nos such fire alerts.
The PCCF Smt.R.Shobha says that the field inspections reveal that the reported fire alerts are due to the rising temperatures during the past few days because of the summer. The Officials have further clarified that the duplication rate was also high in the data sent by two satellites (MODIS SNPP) on the fires.
This means that the number of accidents in a single location in a day is reported twice and even higher as the two satellites will be passing over the country at different timings. This results in duplication of reporting the fire alert more than once. The matter is being brought to the attention of the FSI (Forest Survey of India) authorities. Efforts are on to remove such duplication, the PCCF said.
In fact, she said the Telangana Forest Department has prepared a comprehensive plan each division wise for fire protection and mitigation taking into account past experiences. An amount of Rs.14.00 crores has been sanctioned under CAMPA scheme during the current year for fire prevention measures.
Apart from the creation of fire lines over a distance of 8000-kilo meters, excavation of 9,470 km of trenches has been completed to prevent the spread of fire. Nearly, 45 Quick Response Teams with 5 members in each team, with fire fighting equipment is positioned at highly vulnerable places for preventing and mitigating the forest fires. The Forest Department has established 146 base camps and 69 watchtowers with adequate personnel to identify areas with a high risk of fire.
In particular, the Forest Department has taken the initiative to address the Fire Department to assist the forest staff by providing fire tenders wherever required to control the fire accidents. From time to the time it also coordinated with other departments through the District Collectors.
In addition to setting up a fire fighting cell at each district level, 15,300 individuals were registered including forest staff for receiving the fire alerts from FSI and to respond to fire hazard messages. Even during the lockdown, the field staff are fully engaged in
regularly monitoring and controlling the forest fires.
During this season, the Forest Department organized awareness programs in 1400 forest fringe villages to alert people to fire hazards. The forest department clarified that the total numbers of accidents so far, have not caused any damage to the forests and animal life but the natural regeneration will be affected by the ground fire. The forest department informed that all efforts are being made to ensure the damage caused by the forest fires are kept to a bare minimum and it is trying to mitigate the damage as much as possible.