Frequent fire outbreaks along Kottayam-Changanassery rail route have been affecting rail traffic
As crises often do, wind-driven flames that sweep through the barren polders of Kottayam have brought about the best response from the local community.
Lush green paddy saplings will soon begin to burst into life in the scorched fields of Moolavattom along the Kottayam-Changanassery rail route, thanks to a farmers’ collective. The landscape, lying fallow for over a couple of decades, has witnessed countless incidents of fire breakouts, often affecting rail traffic along the stretch.
A people’s initiative for restoration of freshwater ecosystems in the region has kick-started efforts to bring the 150 acres of Madambukadu polders, a network of paddy fields which lie just outside the Kottayam town, under the plough. As part of it, a farmers’ collective has been constituted, which will start work from next season.
In fact, the collective has identified over a 1,000 acres of paddy fields between Kottayam and Changanassery for expanding its farming operations to the coming seasons.
“Once rarely touched by fire, the region witnessed 26 instances of moderate to severe fire outbreaks last summer. We have since boosted efforts to expand cultivation to the region, which will go a long way in restoring the ecosystem, besides countering the ravaging fires,” said K. Anil Kumar, convener of the programme.
Four days ago, a major fire burned down dry grass in about 4 sq km and it took firefighters about 15 hours to douse the flames, which threatened to spread into a vehicle garage, a paint stockyard, and a few houses nearby.
Following this, trains were forced to lower their speed.
Two days later, another fire broke out in the Nattakam area, which too threatened to spread to the rail tracks.
The impact of these fires, according to officials with the Fire and Rescue Services, has been farr-eaching, considering the threat it poses to a few isolated houses in the region, besides the ash and smoke generated by it.