No FSI fireplace alerts for Kottagudi since Feb 15: CM Edappadi Okay Palaniswami

CHENNAI: Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Monday informed the assembly that the state government did not receive any fire alerts from Forest Survey of India (FSI) of the Union ministry of environment and forests in Kottagudi reserved forest (within which falls Kurangani hills) after February 15. Several trekkers were trapped in a in on March 11 and 17 have died so far.
Palaniswami’s statement contradicts the FSI’s claim that alerts had been sent to the state. In an official statement, the environment ministry on Sunday said two emails providing the coordinates of forest fires in Kurangani forest beat were sent to the nodal officer of forest department on March 11 at 2.29pm and 3.37pm.

The ministry said the alerts pertaining to two satellite passes were auto-processed after receiving information from National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad, and email alerts were sent to the nodal officer of TN government. FSI officials told TOI that they got proof of the email warning sent to the nodal officer-cum-chief conservator of forests through automated system. Alerts were also sent to registered users and hosted on FSI portal.

Palaniswami said there was no fire when the trekkers took the route from Kurangani to Kollukumalai tea estate on March 10. “Going by FSI notification, the last fire episode took place in Kottagudi reserve forests on February 15. “This fire was put out by the forest department. There was no fire alert from FSI since,” the CM said. He was making a statement in the assembly after several opposition members drew the attention of the House about Kurangani fire. Palaniswami said the field staff of the forest department noticed the fire at 2.30pm on March 11.

The watcher, along with three members of the eco-development committee, came to know of the trapped trekkers when they reached the spot at 5pm. The trekkers too ed 108 ambulance service. Upon instructions, forest officials rushed to the scene at 6.30pm, the CM said. Palaniswami said a team of 12 from Erode and Tirupur, had taken the Kurangani route to reach a private tea estate in Kottagudi without permission. They, however, got entry passes for Top Station. They stayed in an unauthorised guest house that night, despite the expiration of entry passes. They were joined by another team from Chennai.

DMK leader M K Stalin said the tragedy could have been averted had the FSI alerts been taken into account immediately. “There are reports of 250 people from TN being registered with FSI for alerts. The government has to insist that all officers be part of the system,” he said.

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