Mass campaign launched to fight forest fires
KOZHIKODE, Thursday 16th February 2017

With forests facing increased threat of fire outbreaks due to intense summer and a deficient monsoon, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) officials have adopted a mass campaign mode with grassroots-level participation for preventing them.

 As many as 800 volunteers, including students and members of nature clubs in schools and environmental activists, have already visited around 18,000 houses in 100 settlements in the forest fringes to sensitise villagers about the dangers of forest fires over the last weekend. Apart from telling the villagers about the steps to be taken to prevent forest fires, hotline numbers to be contacted in case of sighting them were also provided. "We decided to take up a mass campaign as the support of the local community is vital in combating forest fires. The department alone cannot ensure a fire-free summer season," said P Dhanesh Kumar, warden, WWS. The programme under the slogan `Save Water, Save Forest' has been organised by the forest department, in association with the Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti and Bengaluru-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

 Dhanesh Kumar said that the department is in the process of implementing an intensive programme to build 259 check dams and revive the 134 ponds inside the forests to ensure water availability inside the sanctuary .

"Already the effects of intense drought in the adjoining wildlife sanctuaries of Nagarahole and Bandipur are visible with a steady flow of wild animals to WWS in search of water and fodder. The animals are likely to stray into human habitations if there is water scarcity in the sanctuary," he said.

 Also 16 eco development committees and 107 tribal hamlet committees have been pressed into service to maintain round the clock vigil against forest fires. That apart, regular department work like laying of fire lines, deployment of additional fire watchers and intensification of patrolling in fire-prone areas have been completed.

 "This is the biggest participatory fire-prevention campaign to be conducted by the forest department in the state. We would be visiting the remaining houses in the forest fringe villages over the next weekend and plan to extend the campaign to the North Wayanad and South Wayanad forest divisions," said Arul Badusha, field officer of WCS.

 According to FSI data there were 165 forest fires in the state during 2016. The highest number of fire outbreaks were recorded in Wayanad and Idukki districts (30 each) followed by Palakkad (28).

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