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Ravaging Infernos: Understanding and Combating Forest Fires in Telangana 

A recent viral video of a forest fire from Telangana shows that forest staff are striving to contain the fire in Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary Forest fires are one of the biggest menaces to biodiversity during the summer season in India, but the green heroes still give us hope Now, the need for recognition and a national award for green heroes is growing
Indian Masterminds Stories

In the heart of Telangana’s lush landscapes lies a silent yet fierce battle, one that pits the elements against the guardians of the forest. Forest fires, a recurring menace in the region, pose a significant threat to the rich biodiversity and ecological balance of Telangana’s forests. However, amidst the smoke and flames, there are unsung heroes – the forest officials-who work tirelessly day and night, risking their lives to extinguish these infernos and protect the invaluable natural resources of the state. Regretfully, there isn’t a government honor bestowed upon them for their bravery. Now, voices have been raised again in the state to recognize their contribution.

The summer season is back, and again, the state is grappling with forest fires in the Tadvai region of Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary in Mulugu district. The recent viral video showed the gravity of fire and what it could have damaged had it not been timely extinguished by forest heroes. The fires in Eturnagaram sanctuary have been raging, posing a serious risk to wildlife across regions. 

To learn more about this, Indian Masterminds spoke with 1990 batch IFS officer, Mohan Chandra Pargaien, the PCCF and Chief Wildlife Warden of Telangana.

Mr Mohan Chandra Pargaien, the PCCF and Chief Wildlife Warden of Telangana

THE CURRENT SCENARIO 

In recent years, Telangana has been grappling with a growing menace: forest fires. These ravaging infernos not only destroy precious flora and fauna but also pose significant threats to human lives, property, and the environment. 

Telangana stands third among the states when it comes to forest fires in India. In the summer season, on any given day, the state sees an average of 100-200  fire spots. Overall, in every season, there are thousands of cases of forest fires in the state, which causes loss of biodiversity. 

The recent incident in the forest of Eturunagaram Sanctuary, where the field staff was seen extinguishing a forest fire with the help of a blower, took almost an hour to control.

The frequency of forest fires in India is very high. Also, there are different terrains in every forest in every state.

Mr. Mohan said, “Right now, it’s fire season all over India, which is why incidents of forest fires keep occurring everywhere. We get regular real-time alerts from the Forest Survey of India based on ground heat mapping. Anyone can check it online. We also do some GIS-based vetting and rush teams to the spot.”

Links 1: Large Fire Events Active for Today – 11-04-2024

Link 2: Forest Fire Alerts System 3.0

Fire in Eturunagaram Sanctuary

REASONS BEHIND FIRES

During the summer season, forest fires continue to break out, and the forest staff persistently struggles to extinguish them. Extinguishing the fires can take anywhere from half an hour to several hours. 

Mr. Mohan says that the primary cause of forest fires is often human activity. They frequently occur due to shepherds and villagers entering the forests. Sometimes individuals collecting beedi leaves or engaging in forest-cutting activities are responsible. Additionally, fires can result from the carelessness of those smoking beedis and cigarettes. Beedi leaf contractors also pay workers to set the forests on fire.

People who visit the river for fishing often ignite fires to cook their meals. Similarly, indigenous communities like the Chenchus, who gather mahua flowers for crafting country liquor or medicinal uses, resort to burning trees to facilitate flower collection on subsequent days. Forest fires spread rapidly for several reasons. 

“During summer, high temperatures create conducive conditions for fire. The presence of dry grass and leaves further accelerates the spread of fire, causing it to propagate rapidly,” he added. 

Forest staff trying to extinguish the fire with wind blower machine

CONTROLLING FIRE 

Nowadays, there are innovative methods for extinguishing fires. Forest guards utilize a machine called a wind blower, which they carry on their shoulders and employ in the forest to combat fires. These machines function similarly to a reverse vacuum cleaner: instead of sucking in air, they expel it with considerable force. When this powerful wind blows onto the fire, it effectively extinguishes it. These machines typically operate on petrol or diesel fuel.

Mr. Mohan said, “In addition to using wind blowers, fires can also be extinguished by spreading green leaves over the flames and then beating them out. This method is being used in some places.” 

MYTHS

It’s often mentioned that forests can benefit from fire, but the extent of this truth is debatable. Mr. Mohan suggests that controlled burning, often known as prescribed burning, is utilized in areas with grasslands. This controlled burning is carefully orchestrated to enhance the growth of new grass and improve the overall health of the ecosystem. However, in dense forest areas, fires typically result in losses rather than benefits.

Controlled burning in grassland areas is conducted with meticulous planning, considering factors such as the size and condition of the area. When executed properly, it promotes the emergence of new grass and contributes to its growth. It’s important to note that such practices are not carried out within dense forest regions, where the risk of uncontrollable wildfires and significant damage to the ecosystem is high.

THE DEMAND 

The recent surge in forest fires during this summer season has reignited the call for acknowledgment of the green heroes in Telangana. These individuals undertake significant responsibilities. They not only extinguish fires but also play a vital role in preserving life in the form of oxygen. 

From safeguarding grasslands to towering trees and the diverse wildlife within, their efforts contribute to the protection of our precious ecosystems. 

Mr. Mohan said, “Our forest guards work tirelessly day and night, with forest staff dedicated to extinguishing the fires. From forest rangers to IFS officers, everyone is engaged in monitoring. They play with danger as they spend hours carrying machines on their shoulders to control the fires.”

“It’s crucial for people to recognize the invaluable contributions of our field staff, our green heroes. Their dedication and hard work often go unnoticed amidst challenging circumstances. Therefore, it’s essential to highlight their role and give them the recognition they deserve,” he added. 


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