Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Forest fires become rare in Andhra Pradesh

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 5: Forest fires, which worry environmentalists elsewhere in the world, have become rare in Andhra Pradesh with the State Forest Department taking satellite imageries of the forests on daily basis.
The forest department gets remote sensing data on the status of green cover including forest fires every day at 2.00 pm, giving a first hand information what is going on in all the reserve forest.
"We analyse the data and take quick action to contain forest fires, in case we notice them. The information is passed on to lower rung officials instantaneously. The incidence of forest fires have come down by 50 per cent and the department could save hundreds of crores of Rupees worth forest material and wildlife from fire accidents," principal chief conservator of forests SK Das said.
Forests fires in the State have over the years been responsible for degradation. Vast areas of forests and grasslands are burnt every year. The loss simply runs into hundreds of crores of Rupees since the State forests harbour economically important species like teak, terminalia, anogeissus, bamboo, dalbergia, lannea and red sanders.
Forest fires are generally noticed between December and May as the leaf fall starts towards the end of December. The dry grass around forms a highly combustible material for forest fires.
The department has categorised factors influencing forest fires into fuel index like combustible bio-mass from forest type, topography (slope and aspect) and proximity (roads and settlements).
"We have established the inter-relationship for these factors and finally integrated it for identification and zonation of fire prone areas from lowest to highest risk. The geomatic maps pinpoint locations for erection of fire watch towers, execution of fire lines and construction of fire walls," Das pointed out.