BENGALURU: Despite the state forest department striving to achieve a ‘zero fire target’ this season in the state’s wildlife areas, a few incidents of forest fire have been reported from tiger reserves. After Nagarhole, it is Bhadra Tiger Reserve where incidents of deliberate forest fires have come to light in Tanigebailu Wildlife Range.For the first time in Karnataka, eight people were caught red-handed while torching pristine grasslands and Shola forests in Tanigebailu range of Bhadra Tiger Reserve, at 11.30pm on Monday. All hail from different villages of Thiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu.
However, the forest staff could not stop the spread of fire and more than 20 acres of grasslands were destroyed in Kemmanagundi section. They were working as daily wage labourers in Gundikhan Coffee Estate which is situated next to Virupakshakhan beat of Tanigebailu range. They were produced before the Chikmagaluru JMFC court on Tuesday evening and were released on bail later in the day. The arrested are Rajamani (28), Prathap (18), Krishna (45), Muthu (51), Selvaraj (25), Ramaswamy (35), Shivaji (35), and Ramaswamy (45). They have been booked under various sections of WPA, 1972 and Karnataka Forest Act, 1963. Officials said they have also booked coffee estate owner Sibat Ullah in the case.
Bhadra Tiger Reserve Conservator of Forests H C Kantharaj told The New Indian Express that the forest staff are maintaining vigil and all measures are in place till March end, when the dry season ends or the first showers occur. He added, “To protect their own coffee estate from any fires, the coffee estate owner and eight labourers had set fire to forests in the Tanigebailu range. Two more incidents have happened in the Kemmanagundi section and action has been initiated.”
This year, with the department setting a zero fire target, Kantharaj added, “We have hired 300 fire watchers across all the ranges of Bhadra Tiger Reserve while the 29 anti-poaching camps are on their toes 24 hours to stop any deliberate incident in all the ranges of Bhadra.”On February 3, 10 acres were destroyed in Nagarhole Tiger Reserve that was brought under control the same evening.