Fresh fire in Western Ghats keeps officials on toes

By NT Bureau Published on Aug 02, 2018 01:25 PM IST

Chennai: Days after senior IAS Officer Atulya Misra submitted his report to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami about the flaws in the functioning of Environment and Forest Department which lead to the Kurangani forest fire accident that claimed 23 lives, another fresh fire has started burning down the greenery of the Western Ghats, 150 km from Kurangani Hills.

The intense flames which are yet to die down even today, the second day, are at Seithur Hills in Rajapalayam taluk. Sources said fire is rapidly spreading from the Navaloothu forests in the hill range to nearby areas.

As of today, over 20 forest rangers including anti-poaching watchers along with the help of Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services officials are at the spot in putting off the flame. No deaths have been reported yet.

Earlier, Srivilliputtur Grizzled Squirrel Sanctuary wildlife warden P Muhammed Shabab, who was one of the first eye witnesses of the fire, said,”We noticed it yesterday evening in the lower sections of the Western Ghats. Dry weather led to the flames on the dry grass with strong winds fuelling it.”

On 17 June, a similar forest fire broke out in Rajamparai segment of Western Ghats in Rajapalayam forest range. But with the tireless work of officials, it was put off the very next day.

In his report mid last month, Atulya, claimed that inadequate monitoring of adventure activities by the Environment and Forest Department, lack of clear knowledge of the forests and poor training among trekkers have been identified as factors that caused the death of over 23 trekkers in a forest fire at Kurangani Hills in March.

WHAT PROBE REVEALED?

The probe revealed faults on the part of the range and district-level officials of the Forest Department in monitoring activities in the wild, and there were loopholes in the surveillance of forest areas as well. One of the recommendations made in the report was to provide training to Forest Department officials in surveillance and forest-related activities.