Karnataka police have arrested one person for allegedly setting the sensitive Bandipur Tiger Reserve on fire on Saturday, and have seized one mobile phone from him. Two other suspects are absconding. The Saturday fire which is now under control had razed 80 hectares in the Kundakere range. The ravaging fire destroyed acres of forest grassland and shrub jungle common to the habitat.
Kundakere Range forest officials confirmed the development. The person arrested has been identified as one Chandru, resident of Chelavarayanapura of Gundlupet taluk in Chamarajanagar. His associates Chikkamadappa and Muniraju are currently absconding.
Saturday’s fire comes a month after a similar, man made fire had engulfed hectares of pristine forest land with more than 500 hectares of forest land being gutted. The fire which had continued to rage for five days was doused with the help of two Indian Air Force helicopters, along with the work of foresters, foremen, and volunteers. A total of 30,000 litres of water had to be water bombed in the Gopalaswamy Betta Range of the forest in Chamarajanagar district.
Questions were also raised on the issue of lack of preparedness of forest officials with fires in the forest being common in this season.
According to top officials of the forest department all forest fires in this region are man made and are often deliberate rather than accidental. Often the reason for setting fires are to settle scores with stringent forest officers who check on forest land encroachment and restrict entry into forest lands for grazing or agricultural purposes.
Even for the February forest fires, police had arrested two men who confessed that they had set the forest on fire as they were not allowed to use the forest land for grazing and tigers often killed their livestock.