Forest fire breaks out in Valmiki Tiger Project area
10 Feb 2009, 0123 hrs IST, Sanjeev Kumar Verma , TNN
PATNA: On Sunday, a forest fire broke out in Madanpur range of Valmiki Tiger Project area in West Champaran district. Fortunately, it did not spread and the damage was confined to an area of 12 acre only. No damage to the wildlife animals was reported.
The Tiger project, spread over an area of 840 sq km and only one of its kind in Bihar, may not be lucky next time with forest fire season (February to May) already on. The forest department has failed to take any preventive step to limit forest fire in case it breaks out.
"Only God can save in case of such an eventuality and one cannot rule out this, with forest fires being a regular feature in past years," said a senior official of the Tiger project area.
He said, in the past things could be managed as the state government used to sanction funds for implementing the Annual Plan of Operation which included things like making of fire lines and roping in the services of fire watchers for four months. "With no fund given by the state government this year, nothing could be done on these two fronts enhancing the vulnerability of Tiger reserve to forest fire," he added.
Fire line is a 30-foot gap created between the ground vegetation so that in case forest fire breaks out, it does not spread to the whole forest. Fire watchers are deputed for keeping a tab on fire incidents.
The official also said that in the past around 500 km of forest line used to be made for dividing the project area in different zones and services of around 90 fire watchers used to be roped in for keeping a tab on fire incidents.
Principal secretary, forest and environment department, Shishir Sinha on Monday refused to accept that there was any paucity of funds. "Allocation for forest department has gone up manifold," he said and added that if there was lack of fund on any particular head, the government would sanction it at the earliest.
A field official of Tiger Project, however, maintained, "We sent the proposal for Annual Plan of Operation some time back, but funds are yet to come."