BENGALURU: In view of the recent forest fire in Bandipur, the state forest department and Chamarajnagar district authorities came up with a timely initiative to prevent any fires during Maha Shivaratri inside the MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.
For the last three days, the sanctuary saw lakhs of devotees trekking 6-7km to reach the Shiva temple atop MM Hills. Authorities ensured that the devotees did not keep any lighted incense sticks on the forest floor or dump food and plastic waste on their way to the temple.
Although there has been no major fire in this protected area, 62 forest staff and volunteers from Bengaluru and Mysuru got together to prevent any forest fire. They were deployed throughout the route from Taalabetta to the temple. Rajesh Tugbere, a volunteer said, “With MM Hills being a thick forest area, chances of a major fire were high. It took one month of planning to make all the arrangements to ensure safety.” The DCF of MM Hills Sanctuary launched a series of forest awareness camps from March 2-4 to bring in awareness amongst devotees. A few makeshift platforms were erected for keeping lighted incense sticks while bamboo baskets were installed for waste.
DCF Yedukondalu V said, “We have held 10 awareness camps to bring in a change in the attitude of people and the response was good. We have distributed 20,000 pamphlets in the last few days so that people celebrate a festival without harming the fragile habitat.”
Suresh, a devotee from Bengaluru, said after the Bandipur fire this was needed.With 10 anti poaching camps falling on this route, each camp was strengthened with two forest staff and three volunteers to prevent any poaching. In fact, on Sunday, one person (Muthappa) was arrested with country made guns and ammunition. A habitual offender, he was earlier held for sambar poaching. After the celebrations, the forest department will need 200-300 volunteers to clean up MM Hills Range which will start from March 7-9.