Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were deployed on Monday afternoon to douse the fire, which has been raging since Thursday in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The operation on Monday was primarily limited to the Gopalaswamy Betta Range in Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar district. The other two ranges that were majorly affected were Kundakere and Bandipur. The helicopters were deployed after Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Monday sought help from the Indian Air Force.
Visuals shared by IAF helicopter engaged to fight fire in Bandipur pic.twitter.com/qDlWvWHuht— Soumya Chatterjee (@Csoumya21) February 25, 2019
An Air Force statement said, "One helicopter proceeded towards Karadikal Betta hill ranges while other helicopter proceeded to the general area of Chammana halla top to fight the fire in the area Close coordination is maintained with district administration and helicopter have further been tasked to proceed towards Bolagudda and Kanive temple area."
It added, "With two helicopters in position in Bandipur forest area, all out efforts are in place to contain the spread of fire in wide areas of the region. A total of 10 sorties have been flown by the two helicopters spraying approximately 30,000 Iitres of water to fight the fire in the region. After the day's operations, the helicopters have been positioned at Mysuru and will commence the fire fighting operations at sunrise."
Sridhar Punnati, the head of the Forest Department, told TNM, “The Air Force has done a recce and identified the water source, including Nagu dam. In total, two helicopters are being pressed into service. We think 15-20 sorties may be required to completely contain the fire.”
He, however, adds that a lot depends on the winds. “Currently, the wind speed is more than 12km/hour while the place usually sees a wind speed of around 5km/hour. The fire is spreading and may reach the power plant near Tamil Nadu border. Hence, choppers have been pressed into service.”
While the exact extent of the damage is yet to be assessed, Forest Minister Satish Jarkiholi on Monday said 2,000 hectares of forest land has been affected.
Officials in the CM’s office also said Chief Secretary TM Vijaya Bhaskar has been given the responsibility to personally monitor the operation to douse the fire. More resources were allocated to the Chamarajanagar district police and fire officials from neighbouring districts. These developments come after activists on the ground claimed lack of initiative from the political class.
Ganesh C, a volunteer assisting the firefighting operations, for the last few days, said, “Till 3 pm, the choppers had only carried out an aerial survey. The smoke is much less now and everything that could be burnt already burnt in the last three days. We are now on the other side of the GS Betta range in Maddur, where the fire seems to be less compared to Sunday. In Bandipur also, there is less smoke. Even in Gundlupet side, there is less fire.”