• Forest can't be usurped, says govt

  • Fall in tiger population feared

  • Forest dept gears up to fight flames

  • ‘Forest guards to get fire-fighting kits’

  • Forest can't be usurped, says govt


    SHIMOGA: The state government will not regularise ``illegal occupation'' and ``cultivation'' of forest land under any circumstances, Forest Minister K.H. Ranganath said on Sunday.

    Speaking to reporters here after visiting several forest areas and plantations in the district during his three-day tour, the minister said the forest department has taken a decision not to reduce forest cover in the state. The officials who collude with the public or politicians in depleting the forest cover will be dealt with seriously.

    Ranganath said developing and conserving forest in the state have been taken up on priority. He said the forest cover is dwindling by the day, causing an ecological imbalance. He said efforts towards promotion of social forestry and developing plantations are delivering the goods.

    Senior officials of the forest department accompanied the minister during his visit.


    Fall in tiger population feared

    P BALU

    HYDERABAD: Wildlife officials in the forest department are gearing up for yet another census of the tiger in the state’s wildlife sanctuaries and reserves.

    However, the census, beginning April 24 and extending into the first week of May, will take place amidst trepidation as officials fear a fall in tiger numbers.

    This fear could turn into reality as over the last one year, wildlife officials have been finding it difficult to pay compensation for cattle killed by tigers following changes in accounting procedures by the government.

    “It has been a fact that whenever compensation is not paid, the villagers poison the carcasses of cattle killed by tigers.

    When the tigers come back to eat the meat, they get poisoned and die,” a forest department official said.

    No figures are available on just how many tigers have been killed in this manner, but sources involved in wildlife management say the number would be substantial.

    Although last year’s census put the number of tigers in the state at 191, data on sanctuary-wise tiger population was not prepared.

    “This year, we want to know just how many tigers are there in the protected areas,” said chief wildlife warden Hitesh Malhotra. Most cattle kills are reported in sanctuaries.

    However, the week long census comes at a time when villagers, who lose cattle to tiger or panther kills, are not getting compensation immediately as was the case a little over a year ago.

    The previous practice of the local divisional forest officer issuing compensation cheques was replaced by a system of letter of credit (LoC) which requires the clearance of the finance department at the Secretariat for a payment of compensations as meagre as Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500 in case of cattle kills.

    “This is leading to enormous delays.We have no way of knowing how many tigers or panthers are being lost to poisoned cattle carcasses,” said a wildlife official.

    The magnitude of the problem can be imagined considering the fact that nearly 30 to 40 cattle kills by the big cats are reported every year in the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve, the largest such entity in the country covering the Nallamala forests around Srisailam.

    “All over the state, the number of such kills add up to about 300 to 400 a year. We shudder to think what will happen if all cattle owners decide to poison the carcasses,” said another official.

    “The solution,” said the official, “is to remove the LoC restriction as far as compensation for cattle kills or attacks on humans by wild animals are concerned.”


    Forest dept gears up to fight flames


    CHANDIGARH: Fire had consumed more than hundred acres of forests in the Nepli range in May last year.

    The heat of the sun, in the months preceding the onset of the monsoons, makes almost everything as dry as a bone.This is also when forest fires are common occurrences.

    The Himalayan ranges are vulnerable to forest fires where the terrain makes taming the flames a difficult task. But this year the Chandigarh administration’s Forest Department is taking no chances.

    ‘‘Fires are natural occurrences in a forest where the fuel is readily available. I cannot say that there will be no fires but we will certainly not let it spread like it did last year,’’ said deputy conservator of forests Ishwar Singh. ‘‘The months of April and May are crucial since this is when there is a lot of dried matter in the forest. Dry leaves, small shrubs and other herbs act as fodder to the forest fires,’’ he went on to say.

    Chandigarh has very a small area - 32.42 sq. km -under forest cover thereby the greater the need to protect it.‘‘The forest department is taking a lot of measures to ensure that any flare ups are put out before they assume massive proportions like they did last year,’’ said Ishwar Singh.

    The department is undertaking public awareness programmes in the villages adjoining the Sukhna wildlife sanctuary which includes the Kansal and Nepli forest ranges.

    Fireline cutting and lantana weed removal has been undertaken on a massive scale as these are the major reasons for the spread of forest fires.

    ‘‘Such fires occur mostly due to human negligence. Like when somebody carelessly drops a burning bidi or cigarette on a ground carpeted with dry leaves. Another cause is the sparking of high tension electricity supply cables.The dry vegetation ignites easily when the sparks fall on the forest floors.This is what had caused the Nepli fire last year,’’ he said.

    Sometimes the farmers in the villages adjoining the forests set their fields on fire to destroy stubs of the previous crop. This too can cause jungle fires.This has however been dealt with.The forest department has created a clearing of about 50 metres between the villages and the forest.

    Foresters have also been put on high alert.After last year’s fire five watch towers have been constructed at high vantage points. But what will be done if a fire does break out?

    ‘‘We will contain the fire this time as the firelines (clearings in the forest to break the continuity of vegetation) have been widened. Counter-fire measures will also be employed. Like a patch of forest in the immediate way of the fire will be burnt down so that by the time the flames reach the area there will be nothing left to burn,’’ said Ishwar Singh.


    ‘Forest guards to get fire-fighting kits’


    PANCHKULA: The government has decided to provide forest guards with the latest communication system and fire-fighting equipment, said principal chief conservator of forests J P L Srivastava, at the inaugural function of the ‘‘Forest fire week’’, in Trilokpur village, near here, on Sunday.

    Financial commissioner Naseem Ahmad called upon villagers to take measures to prevent forest fires, saying that a small fire can turn into a conflagration and destroy the work of generations.

    Losses incurred due to forest fires and measures to be taken to prevent their occurrence were discussed at the three-hour function, during which five persons who helped the forest department in controlling fires were awarded.

    Inspector general of forests Dr V K Bahuguna, officials of the forest department and members of village resources management committees were among those who attended the function.