Forest fires are common inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Party (SGNP) and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) especially during Mahashivratri.

At least 150 volunteers will be stationed at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park during Mahashivratri. File pic
At least 150 volunteers will be stationed at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park during Mahashivratri. File pic

More than three lakh people visit the temples and shrines at these two sites. Now, the Forest Department (FD) has appealed for volunteers to come forward and assist them to conduct security checks to prevent devotees from carrying flammable substances in the premises.

The Forest and Wildlife Conservation Centre (FWCC), a Mumbai-based NGO, along with the FD, has been working toward preventing forest fires during Mahashivratri since three years. Krishna Tiwari from FWCC said, “This year Mahashivratri will be celebrated on February 27.

As part of our City Forest Initiative with SGNP, volunteers posted at the two entry points would confiscate flammables articles and plastic from the visitors, and prevent people from loitering in the forest area."

It is only on the two nights of Mahashivratri celebrations that visitors are allowed to enter the forest. Forest fires are often caused by discarded cigarette butts. At TWS, people often light candles on their way to the temple, which, again, causes these fires.

Speaking to MiD DAY, Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF), SGNP, Sachin Repal, said, “Around 150 forest department staff and more than 150 volunteers will be on duty for Mahashivratri to regularly patrol SGNP and TWS and prevent forest fires."

ACF Santosh Saste added, "The Forest Department loses revenue in case a forest fire occurs. Moreover, they negatively impact the area's biodiversity and also render rare species of plants, insects and animals extinct.