A citizens’ group in Jharkhand, frustrated with the “callousness” of the forest department, has taken steps to prevent forest fire in Parasnath wildlife sanctuary.
Parasnath wildlife sanctuary, surrounding the lush green Parasnath Hills and a famous Jain religious site, is spread over an area of 49.33sq km under Pirtand block of Giridih district, around 250km from state capital Ranchi.
“We had written umpteen times to the East Giridih forest officials and also met former deputy commissioners and local public representatives on several occasions to take steps to prevent the incidents of forest fire. However, while the forest officials washed their hands off by stating lack of manpower and adopted a callous approach whenever we informed them about forest fire, the administration and local representatives did not even bother to reply to our request. This prompted us to do our bit to prevent forest fire through Parasnath Makar Sankranti Mela Samity,” said convener of the samity and a trader Manoj Agrawal.
The samity was formed in 2010 and registered in 2015 with the state government for proper conduct of Makar Sankranti fair, which attracts lakhs of devotees to the Parasnath Hills.
“We have over 24 active members and over 50 volunteers. We have circulated our members' contact numbers to all the villages dotting the Parasnath forest area and have been carrying out awareness sessions for the villagers on the importance of forest and negative impact of forest fire on flora and fauna and the steps that can be taken to prevent forest fire which takes place between February-end and June during the advent of the monsoon,” said Agrawal.
Gradually, the villagers have started helping the committee. “Initially we used to locate the forest fire after seeing the smoke from a distance after one or two days or after seeing the forest fire at night and reaching the location the next morning. However, gradually villagers have developed confidence in us and now they immediately call us to inform about forest fire. This helps us to reach the spot in time and disconnect the fire-affected area and prevent it from spreading to larger areas and affecting the wildlife,” said Agrawal.
The samity members claimed that the incidents of forest fire are caused by tribals, who light fire to clean the areas while plucking Mahua flowers or accidentally cause it during cooking at the forest.
“Our efforts have reduced incidents of forest fire significantly. Our group keeps vigil of the forest areas for any smoke and fire between February and June,” said Paltu Kumar Mahto, former secretary of the samity.
Giridih deputy commissioner Naman Priyesh Lakra, appreciated the community initiative and said that the administration would do its best to help the samity in their efforts.
Jharkhand has so far recorded 965 forest fire incidents this year as per Forest Survey of India dashboard.