Foresters are using satellite images to locate forest fires and douse them before they can cause major damage to flora and fauna, officials said on Wednesday, a day after two seven-member teams were constituted to monitor the Mahilong area of Angara block in Ranchi district.
“Forest rangers have constituted teams at their level to locate and douse forest fires. We are also using satellite images to identify areas which are affected by forest fires,” said Ranchi district forest officer Ashok Dubey, adding that the special teams are sent to the locations as soon as the department gets an alert through satellite.
Incidents of man-made forest fires have been on the rise this month in Ranchi district as it is the time for harvest of Mahua – a flower used for making country liquor. Villagers, officials said, often set forest areas on fire to collect Mahua, which falls off trees during this season and is unaffected by fire. Incidents of natural forest fires are rare in Jharkhand but man-made forest fires are posing to be a threat for the wildlife in the state, say forest officials.
The special teams constituted for dousing forest fires are equipped with sand and water containers to reduce the heat in the bushes. Once the heat is reduced, they beat the bushes to put off the residual fire, forest officials said.
The Ranchi DFO said reaction time is quite less for teams on duty as fire may engulf huge areas of plantations in a short period of time due to the presence of dry leaves and branches. “It is particularly challenging for us as the leaves and branches are mostly dry during this time of the year and catch fire easily,” said Dubey.
Environmentalists believe that dried up rivers and water bodies in the jungles are also partly responsible for the rise in incidents of forest fires. Nitish Priyadarshi, an environmentalist who recently visited forest areas around Sita Fall and Jonha Fall in Ranchi, said that water bodies add moisture to the soil, therefore preventing the fire from spreading fast.
“But most of the rivers and ponds have dried up, leaving the soil dry. It will get difficult to contain forest fire when there is no moisture in the soil,” he said.