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Grassland fire: New Town on alert

Vigil by drone and bike-borne volunteers

Snehal Sengupta | Published 04.12.23, 06:11 AM
File picture of a grassland in New Town on fire

File picture of a grassland in New Town on fire

Water bowsers are on standby and bike-borne volunteers and a control room linked with CCTV cameras across New Town have been put on alert to ensure that any fires reported from grasslands or empty plots are put out quickly.

Surveillance drones are also being used regularly to spot fires.


A fire on a parcel of grassland was doused within minutes of being spotted by a team of volunteers using a drone in Action Area II earlier this week.

With winter setting in, the New Town authorities are wary of fires in grasslands, which raise the air pollution levels and also destroy the habitats of birds and small animals.

For the past several years, grassland fires and burning of waste have been reported from all three action areas. The number of such fires sharply increase during winter, said a senior official of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA).

Birds of various species nest in the grasslands of New Town. Fires not also destroy the habitats of birds and animals but also cause inconvenience to residents and create serious problems for those with breathing distress.

NKDA chairman Debashis Sen said they had held a meeting with various agencies to ensure grassland fires are put out as soon as they are spotted.

“The fires tend to spread rapidly, especially if there is a wind. Since there is a direct effect (of the fires) on the quality of air as well as the ecosystem for wildlife in New Town, we don't want to take any chances. We are keeping everything ready and are on alert. Our aim is to prevent fires and put them out within a very short response time. We will also take the assistance of the state fire department and police when needed," Sen told The Telegraph.

The NKDA has set up a watchtower each on the grasslands near Sukhobrishti Housing Complex and behind Mother’s Wax Museum. Red Munia and other birds nest at these two places.

Half a dozen more towers have been set up at various spots in Action Areas II and III, where fires are often spotted.

Several CCTV cameras have also been set up near the grasslands and access roads have been constructed near places from where fires have been reported.

"Thanks to the access roads, water bowsers will gain quick access to the fires," said an NKDA official.

A WhatsApp group titled “Air Pollution Resistance Group Party”, whose members include cops, has been formed for residents to share the location of a fire, along with pictures.

In the past few years, the NKDA has received several photographs from residents and sent teams to douse the fires, an NKDA official said.

NKDA officials have come across several explanations for the fires. “Some of the things we heard are probable, while others are hard to believe. They range from people trying to drive away snakes from the grasslands to people trying to steal underground cables by burning grasslands,” an official said.

An officer of the Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate said New Town, Eco Park and Rajarhat police stations have been instructed to remain vigilant.

Last updated on 04.12.23, 06:14 AM

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