Banasura under threat of forest fires
Vellamunda: With summer peaking, the grasslands and shola forests of the Banasura Hills have come under the threat of forest fires. The fires that have become a routine event in the recent years and has been burning down priceless reserves of biodiversity year after year. Forest fires erupt in the months of March and within days burn down the forest into cinders.
The routine fires have returned undeterred by the fire lines established by the Forest Department. More than often it is the forest brigands who set the grasslands on fire. Soon the fire engulfs the dry grass and leaps to the shola forests strengthened by the strong winds. The damage multiplies as the huge old trees catch fire.
The Banasura Hills were a reserve of the famed 'Kaattukurunji' flowers and many other exotic flora and fauna. These species have all but disappeared now following the natural and man made interventions. The forest streams are drying up with the advent of summer and the people in the valleys are left scrambling for water.
The undergrowth of the forest has disappeared in recent times resulting in runoff and rainwater drainage to the valleys. The absence of water retention and percolation has resulted in the streams drying up and has made them seasonal.
Crores of rupees go wasted as the saplings planted under the Social Forestry Scheme dry up in summers every year. Despite the efforts of the department, the saplings either burn down in the forest fire or dry up in the parched summer. The death of the grasslands have also contributed to the damage by exposing the top soil to erosion and runoff.
Wayanad is highly dependent on these hills for its weather balance. It is the Banasura hills that stop the winds that come past the Western Ghats and ensure rainfall upto 1600 mm in the hills of Wayanad. Rampant forest fires and forest brigandary have turned the great mountains into dry parched patches.
Landslides and mining mafias are added challenges. There has been no concerted plan to protect Bansura Hills so far. The forest protection councils are helpless in front of the massive forest fires and no environmental groups have taken up the cause either.