Forest Fires in Morni

The dry scrub forest of the Morni hills experiences devastating fires in the summer months every year. The fires find a mention in the 19th century British gazetteers so the problem is not a recent one. The spread of lantana has, however, aggravated the problem as the bush readily catches fire during the dry season. Lantana is highly inflammable during the dry season and provides continuous fuel to fire helping it spread over large areas. Lantana readily resprouts after the fire and grows faster than the slower growing native varieties of shrubs and trees that have been destroyed by the fire. Thus lantana fuels the fires and the fires in turn help in further spread of lantana that is better adapted to surviving fires. Lantana flowers and fruits all the year round and produces large amounts of seeds that are available in the soil helping it to resprout after the fire. It is efficient in uptake of nutrients from soils degraded by the fire and regenerates faster than its competitors.

The fires are generally blamed on sparking in electricity transmission wires and transformers  though a systematic investigation is rarely done to establish the cause.

The forest department maintains firelines to break the spread of fires and has watch towers at strategic locations to monitor the movement of fires. Fire tenders are pressed into service when the fires threaten human habitation. The loss to wildlife has not been systematically assessed. As per locals the fires  cause heavy losses to bush birds, jungle fowls, porcupines, monitor lizards and other smaller forms that are unable to escape in time.

Forest fire near Jallah (Courtesy KS Bains 7-5-12)
Morni forest fires
Forest fire at Morni (Courtesy KS Bains)
Forest Tower at Bunga
Forest tower at Bhoj Balag