Over 2,500 hectares (ha) of forests in Kerala have been destroyed by fires this summer. Fires are reported to have destroyed extensive acreage in several of the 14 sanctuaries and national parks in the state, including 250 ha in the Erakivulam National Park, 500 ha in the Thakkady Wildlife Sanctuary and 200 ha in the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary. Forest fires are more common during summers, and easily start in the dry undergrowth.
The accidental fires start generally with a carelessly thrown matchstick or bidi. Tribals and small cultivators deliberately start fires to clear the land for food crops, and, frequently, for illegal ganjo cultivation. Even in the national parks and sanctuaries, illegal ganja cultivation is not u@hknown, obviously with the collusion of forest officials.
Tribals occasionally start a fire to clear ffie forest and make gathering of various minor forest produce easier. Contractors also often start fires to clear the undergrowth either for licensed forest plantations or road coftstruction.