Large swaths of Goa are facing a grave threat from raging forest fires for the past seven days, even as Indian Air Force and Indian Navy choppers are dumping thousands of litres of water to douse the flames.
According to the Goa Forest Department, a prolonged dry spell and lack of winter rains created the conditions for forest fires. Though some local environmentalists have hinted some of the fires could be a result of mischief by the timber mafia.
#WATCH | IAF's Mi-17 helicopter dispensed over 25000 litres of water over forest fire-affected areas in Goa on March 11
(Source: IAF) pic.twitter.com/aNwkwNXZ5U
— ANI (@ANI) March 12, 2023
“As per the reports received from the field, since March 5 to March, 48 fire-spots have been detected and attended to by the field executives in close co-ordination with line departments and local public, including Panchayati Raj Institutions,” said a press statement issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). These fires are spread over private and public land.
According to the MoEF statement, a long dry spell since October, the accumulation of dead biomass in the forested areas, and slash and burn by the local pastoralists for grazing cattle are the primary reasons for triggering a large number of fires in the thickly forested areas. The strong winds has further fanned the flames causing the fires to spread over a large area.
At the same time, Goa Chief Minister, Pramod Sawant, accused the cashew growers in the state for starting these fires with the alleged intent of clearing more land for cultivating the cash crop.
Meanwhile the forest department officials are rushing to new locations where fresh fire incidents have been reported. This includes a private property in Valpoi and areas in Vagheri hills. As per reports received by MoEF, minor fires were also reported in Taleigao, Batim, Dabolim, Gogol and Advalpale.
Major fire reported at Sarzora hill, forest & fire officials at site, More details awaited. #goa #fire #goaburning pic.twitter.com/cGC5nhHF8Q
— Clinton Dsouza (@_iamclinton_) March 8, 2023
The ministry has also claimed of setting up a 24×7 monitoring cell that is working on real-time inputs provided by the Forest Survey of India (FSI). It’s providing exact geo-coordinates and maps of fire locations to the field functionaries on real-time basis to immediately attend to the fires. FSI is acquiring the data using various satellites.