Indian Express reports that a forest fire broke out at Bandhavgarh National Park on 29th March 2021. This reporter spoke to several people who claimed the Mahua harvesting to be at the root of the problem. But, forest & district officials refrained from laying blame but did confirm that human activity was the cause. Spread across 106 square kilometers, Bandhavgarh national park has the densest tiger population at 8 tigers per sq. km. As per local sources, the extent of the damage is between 15–25 sq. kms. Indian Express reports affected areas as six ranges, including Panpatha, Khitoli, Tala and Manpur. Vincent Rahim, Field Director, Bandhavgarh National Park, denied such reports stating that they are working with the district magistrate to ascertain the extent of the damage.
As per Mr Rahim, the district administration has been prompt with the help by providing laborers through MNREGA scheme. Working overnight the forest department claims to have brought the fire under control. Yet, they did request compact jeep fire brigades that can venture into deeper forest areas. Sources working with the national park further raised concern on the availability of food for the large deer population of the park. Suggestions ranged from digging borewells to irrigate land to utilising motors to divert water so as to propagate poaceae (grass) vegetation.
While the district administration and forest officials claim that there has been “no loss to fauna.” Locals claim to have seen carcasses of smaller animals, snakes, and birds. The conflicting claim could not be independently verified. Other concerns raised by locals is alleged mass devastation of the Barley crop in the area. Asked on how citizens can help, the officials said awareness would help but also chided that social media sharing has led to more damage than the fire itself.
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2. Wikipedia page used for stats: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandhavgarh_National_Park
3. IFS listing: http://ifs.nic.in/AddLink/getIMG/13250