The fire that had engulfed the forests of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and which had been raging for five long days, was finally doused on Tuesday, 26 February. Sridhar Punatti, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and the head of the Forest department in Karnataka confirmed the development to TNM.
Punnati said, “Fortunately, there is no fire today. The helicopters did one sortie. Till now, everything seems to be under control. We will still wait till evening. We have already sent back one of the helicopters. One helicopter has been kept here for standby. By evening, it will be shifted back to Mysuru."
Speaking about the damage, Punnati told The News Minute:
“According to satellite imagery, it is estimated that high intensity fire has affected 500 hectares mostly in the hillside of Gopalaswamy Betta and the rest of it is mostly low-intensity fire. That is all we can say as of now.”
High-intensity fire as opposed to ground fire engulfs all forms of plant growth including big trees.
He further confirmed no animals have been lost due to these fires till now, as noted by the forest department.
Speaking to reporters, Forest Minister Satish Jarkiholi on Monday said the recent fires have affected 2,000 hectares of forest land.
An official statement from the Indian Air Force is awaited.
On Monday, two helicopters of the Indian Air Force had done a total of 10 sorties spraying approximately 30,000 Iitres of water to fight the fire in the Gopalaswamy Betta range of the tiger reserve located in Chamarajanagar district. Other than the GS Betta range, the fire had also massively impacted the adjoining ranges of Bandipur and Kundikere.
This, after Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Monday held a discussion with the Ministry of Defence and a decision was taken to seek the help of the Indian Air Force, as four days of efforts by firemen, foresters and volunteers had failed to put out the fire.
The same day, Chief Secretary TM Vijaya Bhaskar was asked to personally monitor the situation after the state government faced criticism from several quarters for reacting late to the issue.
TNM had reported how once the fire had spread to a wide area, the prevalent dry conditions, the hilly terrain and high wind speeds compounded the problem.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)