Nellore: Come summer, forest fires are common in the Seshahalam forest abutting the abode of the Lord of Seven Hills. In view of this, the TTD Forest department has embarked on a mission to contain forest fires during this summer, and protect the flora and fauna and the rich biodiversity, in the Seshachalam Forest in TTD's jurisdiction. Firelines also called fire breaks are being laid in the forest. A fireline is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow down or stop the progress of forest fires.
About 123km-length of firelines are created and being maintained as a preventive step. Deputy Conservator of Forests (TTD) N.V. Sivarama Prasad said forest fires have been posing a threat not only to the forest wealth but they are also seriously disturbing the bio-diversity and ecology of the region. “During summer, the forests are littered with dry leaves and twigs which could be ignited into flames by even a slight spark. The season starts from February and ends by July with the onset of North East monsoons. To check the forest fires, the forest wing of TTD has been putting in arduous efforts during the season every year. Any dereliction causes unrecoverable loss to the environment and a huge lose to forest wealth. To prevent and control the forest fires, we have a devised a strategy through systematic planning,” the DCF said.
Referring to the 2,750 hectares of forest land in a 27 sq.km area falling under TTD enclosure, Sivarama Prasad said they have built a 19- km-long and 4-feet high wall all around their forest area as a barrier to the fire. The dried up grass within a 10-metre distance is being removed between December and January since it is highly inflammable and fire easily spreads to other side of wall as it grows upto a 5-feet height. Stressing that there is more damage than advantage because of the forest fires, he said, unlike uncontrollable fires, controlled fires help kill harmful pathogens and activate micro-orgasm in the soil, thus contributing to lush green growth after the first rains.
He said such growth is also necessary for the large number of herbivores in the forest. In case of major fires, they destroy plants and trees from one-year-old to 15-year-old also seriously affect the soils as well as biodiversity, leaving the area barren. According to DCF, a fire-fighting squad patrols the possible areas round the clock to alert the fire staff and watch towers staff find out traces of fires and to control trespasses. As part of action plan to keep a tab on forest fires and control them, four fire watchtowers each have been built in Tirumala and Tirupati. In Tirumala, two fire fighting teams consisting of 72 members are divided into two batches to be on high alert to put off fires round the clock. The same strategy has been applied in Tirupati too.