Mangaluru: A local environmental outfit 'Sahyadri Sanchaya' fighting for protection of the Western Ghats and opposing the controversial Yettinahole river diversion project, today expressed concern over increasing incidents of "man-made" forest fires in the Ghats.
Talking to reporters here, the Sanchaya convenor, Dinesh Holla said several hectares of forest land had been destroyed in fires in the Western Ghats in recent months. The fire had destroyed the 'Shola forest' and also harmed wildlife.
The forest fires that started from January this year have raised suspicions of illegal activities in certain areas, Holla said. Such fires usually take place during peak summers in April or May, he said.
The Western Ghat regions of Balegudda, Jenukal, Dodderibetta, Hosamanegudda, Ramanabetta, Minchinakallu, Somanakadu, Anivuru forest, Ambattamale and Barimale had been destroyed in the fires, he claimed.
While in some areas it was natural forest fire, in most places it was man-made by estate or ganja mafia, who illegally entered the forests, Holla alleged.
He said the forest department did not have adequate facilities to douse the flames in the event of a fire incident. The department lacked sufficient personnel, guards or equipment. "The wild fire has also affected the elephant corridor and led to increased man-animal conflict," he said.
Holla alleged the forest land had been encroached by the estate mafia by planting crops like coffee and rubber after chopping trees of the Western Ghats.
Several animals had died of electric fences put up by them, he said.Sahyadri Sanchaya had been taking up trekking tours in Western Ghats for the past 22 years, and witnessed continuous deterioration of the Ghats due to various "development" projects and deforestation by estate mafias, he added.