KOCHI: The threat of wildfire is looming large over Kerala forests in the coming summer season, thanks to the poor rainfall that has caused drying up of the forests, making them prone to conflagration.
According to data available with the Forest Survey of India (FSI), an organisation under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, at least 370 major forest fires were recorded in the State between 2014 and 2016 - 114 in 2014, 91 in 2015 and 165 in 2016. The most number of blazes were recorded in the Wayanad and Idukki districts, with both reporting 71 major fires each.
Experts warn that the situation would likely worsen in the coming months, if the summer rain is low, and it might be aggravated by the extreme hot conditions. “As the FSI data covers only the major fires, the actual number could be much higher. In recent years, we have witnessed an increase in cases of wildfire in the State. Rain shortage is going to be a real and severe threat in the coming summer season,” they said.
Meanwhile, the State Forest Department has initiated steps to enhance its machinery to check forest fire. According to Forest Department officials, the chances of wildfire are very high this season, especially in Wayanad and Idukki. The precautionary measures include early detection of fires with the help of satellites.
“We have already started installing fire management systems in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS). Under the initiative, fire-lines will be laid in the coming days, patrolling will be intensified in all vulnerable areas and additional fire watchers will be deployed in areas prone to forest fire. We are treating the situation with utmost seriousness, and have been doing everything possible to prevent wildfire,” said WWS warden P Dhanesh Kumar.
In 2015, 12 forest fires were reported in WWS alone, which together ravaged around 450 hectares of land.