The fire of Sundarbans finally extinguished after 30 hours, burned 3 acres of forest
By Zeba Tarunnum
After 30 hours, the finally extinguished fire of Sundarbans was after burning for two days. According to the fire service, the fire burnt almost 3 acres of forest (1 ha = 3 acres).
However, the source of the fire is not yet known. However, According to the initial investigation, the burning cigarette thrown by the fishermen can be the source of the fire. Mohammad Belayet Hossain, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundarbans East Division, said, ‘The fire of Sundarbans completely extinguished around 5 pm on May 4, 2021.
The fire service and local villagers who took part in extinguishing the fire have returned. There were no valuable plants in the burnt area of forest.’ In the last 19 years, the Sundarbans caught fire 25 times, including this time, which has damaged at least 80 acres of forest land.
According to the residents, the Mora Bola river is located next to that forest. The Fishermen always go fishing in that river; the fire might have originated from the burning cigarette thrown by the fishermen.
The fire broke out in Compartment no. 24 of Daser Bharani area of Sarankhola Range of Sundarbans East Forest Division on Monday, May 3, 2021. The Bagerhat Fire Service sprayed water and extinguished the fire from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
However, it took time due to the water crisis, as the water reservoir was far from the place where the fire broke out. However, on May 3, 2021, late-night and May 4, 2021, afternoon rain helped a lot in extinguishing the fire. Nevertheless, the water sprayed in the area again on May 5, 2021, morning as the Smoke appeared again.
Md. Golam Sarwar, deputy assistant director of Fire Service and Civil Defence in Bagerhat station, said, ‘Smoke has been seen in different places since May 3, 2021 morning. However, there was no fire then. In the Afternoon, again, the fire broke out in different places.
After a while, apart from Sarankhola, two more units of Morelganj and Sadar have worked on fire control. The situation here is like a fire of trash. It is like burning, extinguishing, again burning. Now the only way is to spray water. We are arranging to provide adequate water. But the problem is the dry leaves on the ground, and there is like a tunnel underneath. The fire is spreading from underneath.
Although it was not seen, the fire is spreading from below among the dried leaves and the Smoke. As there is no water source close to the fire spot, 25 pipes have to be installed from the Bhola river to fetch water to the fire spot.’
Md Joynal Abedin, the head of the investigation committee and the assistant conservator of forests (ACF) of Sharankhola range of the Sundarbans East Division, said, We have started work to assess the forest damage in the fire that has been burning for 30 hours. We will complete the work and submit the investigation report within the given time.
Earlier on February 8, 2021, 3 decimal of forest land was burnt in a fire in the Dhansagar station of Chandpai Range in the eastern Sundarbans division. In the last 20 years, 25 fire cases were reported in the Sundarbans.
Locals expressed anger and frustration over the one after another fire incident inside the forest.
Md. Afzal Hawladar, of Rasulpur village adjacent to the forest, said, ‘Sundarbans is like our mother and as a natural shield of Bangladesh. Sundarbans protect us, and we depend on Sundarbans for our survival. However, one fire after another in the Sundarbans is making us anxious.
These fires burn the trees of the Sundarbans to ashes and endanger the various animals of the Sundarbans. Though the Sundarbans caught fire so often, never told the reason behind this fire to the common people like us.’ They demanded to be more cautious about the fire to protect the Sundarbans.
Md. Golam Sarwar, deputy assistant director of Fire Service and Civil Defense in Bagerhat, said we have managed to extinguish all the visible fires in the Daser Bharani area through everyone’s effort. Now there is no fire anywhere. However, there are many thick piles of dried leaves in that area, which may result in a dormant fire.
As there is no visible fire, we ended the expedition. Even if there is any fire left and if the forest department informs us, we will make arrangements for watering the area again.
Golam Sarwar further said that the damage burned at least 3 acres of forest land in the Daser Bharani area in the fire. Several large trees, including small trees and herbs, were burnt.
Md. Belayet Hossain, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundarbans East Division, said we were able to extinguish the fire with the help of the fire service. Even then, if there is any dormant fire, that will be extinguished. If necessary, we will take the cooperation of the fire service again. Forest patrols have been intensified in the fire spot.
The fire is seen again in Compartment no. 24 of the eastern part of the Sundarbans. According to the Fire Service and Forest Department, the fire was extinguished entirely on May 3, 2021. However, on May 5, 2021 morning, Forest Department and Sharankhola Fire Service resumed work on fire control as the Smoke appeared again on that part of the forest.
There have been 23 fire cases in the Sundarbans in the last two decades. The previous 22 fire incidents have burnt almost 71 acres of forest trees and shrubs. An investigation team formed by the forest department to investigate these fire incidents initially blames sabotage, unconsciousness, and neglect of burning cigarettes for the fire.
The investigation committees recommended raising the awareness of forest users, excavating dead rivers adjacent to the forest and constructing fences and watchtowers in the border areas to protect the forest. Mentioning the inquiry committee’s recommendation was not implemented, the forest department, local people, and environmentalists have demanded the government to take effective steps to protect the forest resources.
According to documents from the Sundarbans East Forest Department, in 2002, once in the Kotka in the Chandpai Range in the Eastern Division of the Sundarbans, twice in Nangli and Mandarbaria in the same range, in 2005, twice in Pochakoralia and Sutar Khal area of Ghutabaria, in 2006, Five times in Terabeka, Amurbunia, Kholabaria, Pachakoralia and Dhansagar areas, in 2007, three times in Pachakoralia, Nagli and Dumuria, in 2010, once in Gulishakhali, in 2011, twice in Nangli, in 2014, once in Gulshakhali,in 2016, thrice in Nangli, Pachakoralia and Tulatols, in 2017, once in Madrasharchila and lastly on February 8 this year in Dhansagar the fire incidents took places.
According to the forest department, at the 22nd fire incident, about 66 decimal of the forest resources (including Mangrove trees and various shrubs) of 81 acres of land with a financial value of Tk. 18,55,533.00 were burnt ( US$ 1= Tk.86 approx.).
The forest department formed a three-member inquiry committee to determine the source and the extent of the damage caused by the latest Sundarbans fire.
The other two committee members headed by Joynal Abedin, ACF of Sharankhola Range, are Md. Faridul Islam, an officer of Dhansagar station and Abdul Mannan, an officer of Sharankhola Station. The committee was asked to submit the report to Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) within the next seven working days.