Panaji: Helicopters of the Indian Navy on Wednesday morning conducted sorties over the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa to assess the extent of forest fires that are raging for the last five days, the state government said on Wednesday. The fires in the biodiversity-rich region, a part of the Western Ghats, appeared to be a ”man-made incident”, said state Forest Minister Vishwajit Rane.
The Defence Ministry has granted permission for the use of Indian Air Force choppers for dousing the fires, he added.
The state Fire and Emergency Services and Forest Department teams have so far failed to control the fires which are raging in multiple locations, officials said.
Navy choppers conducted seven to eight sorties on Wednesday, minister Rane said. He himself along with senior Navy officials conducted an aerial survey of the affected areas.
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Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had on Tuesday evening held a meeting of the State Disaster Management Authority to chalk out a plan to bring the fires under control.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Rane said, “We have taken aid from the Defence ministry for in-principle approval of additional helicopters. It appears prima facie to be a man-made incident. A detailed inquiry as per the discussion with the chief minister last night has been ordered.” “The people responsible for this will be taken to task and suspended. In addition, I have given stern instructions that anybody found entering the wildlife sanctuary or putting a fire will be arrested under the Forest Act,” he said in another tweet.
Talking to reporters in Panaji, Rane said his department will regulate entry of people in the forest areas in view of the multiple fire incidents in the Mhadei sanctuary in the recent past.
People indulging in mischief inside the sanctuary will face action under the Forest Act, he said. Chief minister Sawant had said on Tuesday after the meeting of the Disaster Management Authority that there was a possibility that some people started the fire as part of the cultivation of cashew plantations inside the sanctuary. ”If any forest guard is found to have failed in his duty, he would be immediately suspended,” Sawant had added.