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Forest fires affect Sirumalai Hills

Staff Reporter

Poses threat to medicinal plants



DESTRUCTION: Inferno on the hills near Dindigul. — PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN

DINDIGUL: Frequent forest fires at different parts of Sirumalai Hills has not only destroyed rare species of medicinal plants but also threatened the rich fauna and survival of tribes living in the small pockets.

Famous for `hill banana,' the Sirumalai Hills, stretching up to the borders of Madurai district, has sizeable number of fauna, including Indian gaurs and over 100 varieties of birds.

It is also a major production centre of horticulture crops such as lemon, chow-chow, pepper, coffee and hundreds of medicinal plants.

On Wednesday, a fire that broke out spread to small pockets of the upper hills and engulfed even a portion of the forests. Dry grass and foliage caught fire and shrubs were destroyed. Strong winds fanned the flames making it difficult to put them out.

Forest officials could not assess the number of trees destroyed in the blaze. They suspect the fire to be man-made.

Forests are often set on fire during summer to promote growth of vegetation for fodder. Some people also burn down the forest for timber and cultivation.

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