Palakkad: Even as the forest areas of Kerala are getting increasingly swallowed by huge forest fires this summer, the Forest Department suspects that the fires may be more than ‘accidental,’ and doubts the hand of miscreants behind them.
It was pointed out that there were earlier incidents when persons who had some scores to settle with the Forest Department sparked forest fires. In such cases, the accused in cases involving the Department or those who are engaged in land-related litigation were allegedly behind the blaze.
Though the present priority of the Department is on combating the fires, there are moves to make further probes into the frequent bouts of forest fires this year.
The forest area under the Olavakkode Circle of Forest Department in Palakkad district was the worst hit in fires reported from the State this summer.
Helicopters had to be summoned to put out the fires that spread over 500 acres of forest land in the Attappadi Range under Mannarkkad Division. The fire also wreaked havoc in Nenmara and Palakkad divisions.
The Forest officials doubt that issues including the ganja cultivation and illicit brewing within the forest area as well as the presence of Maoists groups might have led miscreants to set fire to the forest areas in their attempts to settle scores with the Government and Forest Department.
Three persons were already nabbed for setting fire to the Bandipur forest area in Karntaka, close to the Wayanad district of Kerala. The Department has charged a case of unnatural fire when 150 hectares of forest land got scorched in Banasura Hills of Wayanad this February, but no one has been arrested so far. A case has been registered against one person when 54 hectares of forest land in Batheri Wild Life Sanctury got torched.
The fires that spread from the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu almost reached the tri-junction between the States of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where the Muthanga and Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuaries meet. Here also the fires were put out with the help of helicopters.
The forest fires at Kannavam in Kannur district could be controlled quickly as it was spotted in the very beginning. The preliminary enquiries conducted by the Department have revealed that the fires were set up deliberately. Small fires had broken out at Makkoottam–Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctury also.
Though fires had spread in the eastern parts of the district, the rains last week helped to douse them. According to estimates, 13.7 hectares of forest land had got scorched in Pathanapuram and Anchal Ranges under Punaloor Forest Division between last October and this month.
No severe incidents of fires have been reported from the forests in the district recently. Earlier, around 60 acres of grasslands had got torched in the top of Njayappilly hills within the Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary.