KAUSHIK DUTTA, Bankura: Amid the nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus, the repeated incidents of fire in the forests of Jangalmahal have left the officials anxious. While the forest department officials have informed us that they have enhanced vigil and also trying to raise awareness on the issue, some officials fear that the recent events of fire took place because of the miscreants.
hill and Arabari forest fire, there was fire in some forest areas of Purulia district, too, in the last few days. However, the Susunia fire was the most fearsome as a massive fire had engulfed the famed 1,470 feet high Susunia hills of Bankura district. Though the fire broke out on Tuesday, but till Wednesday, the forest department and the firefighters continued to battle the blaze.
On Wednesday night fire broke out in the Arabari forest of West Midnapore district. However, the firefighters were able to control the blaze the same night. Also, the rain had been a great help to the firefighters. But before the fire was brought under control, forest officials said nearly one hectare area was affected and many sal plants were burnt.
Meanwhile, the forest department has started investigation in the Susunia fire incident. The officials said they find the involvement of some miscreants in the case.
“Our preliminary investigation suggests that it happened because the fire was lit up by some miscreants who then fled. We are also assessing the damage”, said Bhaskar J V, DFO of Bankura (North Division).
According to the forest department in the last one week, at least 14 forest fire incidents have taken place in Purulia district. Beside some forests in Baghmundi, Matha, Jhalda, Kotshila and Bandwan, there has also been a fire in the forest of Ayodhya hill area. Ayodhya hill, once a den of the maoists, shares the border with Jharkhand. The forest has a good number of wild animals too. It is feared that many animals including boars, forest hen and cats must have killed in the incident.
The forest department officials also learnt that many people are venturing into the forest area to collect fruits. From Arsha and Balarampur areas, the staff of forest department had seized some equipment for cutting trees and poaching.
“Many are going into the forest areas to collect fruits and other things amid lock down. Some of them might have lit dry wood in the forest or thrown lighted bidi and it must have caused fire. The poachers are also taking the advantage of lockdown. We are trying to aware people and also increasing vigil in the forest,” said Ramprasad Badna, DFO (Purulia).
Not only in Purulia district, the incidents of cutting trees and poaching have increased in Jhargram also.
“We have seized some timber while these were carried in a vehicle in Nayagram area. We are taking the help of police to stop timber theft,” said Basabraj Hellaichi, DFO (Jhargram).
“I have asked police as well as the forest department officials to look into the matter to stop theft,” Ayesha Rani, district magistrate in Jhargram, said.
According to the administration and forest department, the incidents of timber theft were regular in the time of Maoists activities in the region and now when the members of the Forest Protection Committee (FPC) are confined themselves inside the houses in the period of lockdown due to coronavirus, the miscreants are taking the opportunity.
In the Sarishabasha forest of Belpahari, Kalmapukuria of Nayagram, some forest areas of Gopiballabpur and Jamboni and alongside the border of Jharkhand and Odisha, huge number of sal trees have been cut. Such incidents have also happened in Dhabani, Kalabani and some other forests in Jhargram.
“If such practices are not stopped and administration fails to take necessary steps, then we have to pay heavy price,” said Swati Datta, a resident of Jhargram district.