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All you need to know about Uttarakhand forest fires

By: Anku Sharma

The skies become orange, a raging inferno blazes across the mountains. Towers of fire reach out towards the heavens. Such a horrifying sight it is the burning of a forest. The distinct smell of burnt wood and heavy smoke can be felt miles away. Scores of animals, insects, birds perish in an intensely painful death. Every year forest fires result in loss of green cover, endangered species as well as loss of property.

Image credits: Pallavi Singh

National parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and forests all across India including in Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland-Manipur border, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat have seen major devastating fires this year. Meanwhile,
one thousand or more incidents of forest fires were reported in Uttarakhand alone over the last six months.

According to forest officials, around 983 occurrences of forest fires were reported since January of this year alone in Uttarakhand.

As of now according to the forest department data, there are at least 85 more forest fire incidents reported across the state in 24 hours. The fire spots have doubled across the state with Nainital, Almora, Tehri, and Pauri districts being the worst hit according to the forest department. Principal Chief Conservator stated that around a  total of 12,000 forest guards as well as fire watchers of the state forest department have been deployed to control the fires.

Meanwhile, IAF helicopters were deployed which began the operation of carrying out sorties of dousing fires by spraying water across the state. According to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) and the nodal officer of the operation, DS Meena around 5000 litres of water from Tehri Lake was used to douse fires over the forests Gaja, Pokhri and Quili in the district Narendra Nagar.

A recce was carried out by the IAF helicopters over the Tehri district first and later two sorties were carried out to spray almost 10,000 litres of water over the active fire spots in the district forest division, the DFO said. According to reports, the fire has so far destroyed approximately 37 lakh worth of property and claimed the lives of four people and at least seven or more animals. This is not including the unprecedented destruction of the endangered flora and fauna in the fires.

The IAF operation was suspended on Monday late afternoon because of bad weather however, according to DFO Koko Rose, Tehri district the operation is expected to be underway on Tuesday where the IAF will also carry out sorties over The Thauldhar block. Meanwhile, boating was suspended over Tehri Lake due to the IAF forest fire operation.

While the central government came into action along with the state machinery, the loss of precious Himalayan forest lands is something that is irretrievable. Every year Uttrakhand loses green cover due to anthropogenic activities.

The Himalayan forests are a rich treasure of herbs, mineral-rich waters, endangered species of trees, insects, birds, and mammals. It’s time we took a deeper and concrete plan of action to preserve this natural heritage.

Anku Sharma

Anku Sharma

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