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Army, Air Force called in to help check spreading forest fires in Uttarakhand

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Army, Air Force called in to help check spreading forest fires in Uttarakhand


Pithoragarh, April 27

With rising temperatures due to advancing summer season, forest fires in Uttarakhand state have become uncontrollable forcing the state administration to call the army for help as forest fires are spreading in residentoial areas in some areas in Kumoan region. The forest in the entire state of Uttarakhand are simmering since winter season this year.

A MI 17 helicopter of taking water in a bucket to douse forest fire near Bhimtal on Saturday.

The state government called in the Indian Army and IAF in controlling the fire in Nainital and other nearby regions and a  Mi-17 helicopter of Indian Air Force  was deployed which took water from Bhimtal lake to douse forest fires in nearby areas. Forest fires had been reported in many areas of Nainital including near the Air Force station at Ladiaka Antha from forest fires in last 24 hours.”The M I helicopter has doused the forest fire proceeding towards Air Force station after spraying 5000 litres of water in a bucket in each trip making five trips,” said  Pramod Kumar, Sub-Divisional Magistrate(SDM) of Nainital. The district administration has also stopped boating in the Nainital  lake.

According to officials, due to 313 forest fire incidents in Kumaon region and 211 in Garhwal region from November 2023 to April 2024, a total of 375 hectares of forest in in Kumaon and 234 hectares in Garhwal region has been destroyed.”In over 64 forest fire incidents in last 24 hours, a total of 70 hectares of forest is burning in hilly region of state from last 24 hours,” said a forest officer on the condition of anonymity.

According to experts, in recent years forest fires in Uttarakhand are becoming more devastating in every two years time as the dried grass deposited in forests in two years becomes more flammable.”While a total of 172 hectares of forest gutted in 135 forest fires in the year 2020, it  rose to 3943.89 hectares in 2813 forest fires in 2021, in the year 2022 forest fires destroyed a total of 3425.05 hectares of forests, while  933 hectares of forests was destroyed in 773 fires in the year 2023,” said Navin Joshi, a journalist based in Nainital.

The forests are burning at various places in Kumaon region, the forests from Bageshwar to Dharmaghar in Pithoragarh district are burning from past several days. The  forests fires of villages of Pachar, Jakhni, Maholi Papola, Vijaypur, Pauridhar, Raikhoki  are still uncontrolled.”We are trying to control the fires with the best means available with us,” said Shyam Singh, a Forest Range officer in Dharmaghar area.

The forest fires have also gone uncontrolled in Bungachina region of Pithoragarh and Ghurchum village of Champawat division. Police department is helping forest department in taking precaution against forest fires at several places under orders of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

Forest fire in Kumoan region of Uttarakhand.

“We have called all ‘Gram Pradhans’, ‘Van Panchayat Sarpanchas’ and appealed to them to coordinate in the task of  controlling forests fires near their villages,” said Shivraj Rana, Circle Officer (CO) of Tanakpur police station in Champawaat district.

Leader of opposition in state assembly ,Yashpal Arya has termed widespread forest fires as a failure of the state government in saving precious forests year by year.”This failure of state government is causing loss of worth crores of forest wealth in the state,” said Arya.

Forest department officers have said that it due to disappearance of fire lines dug during British time, the forest fires have gone uncontrollable in the state in recent years.

Forest Fires spreading towards human settlements in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.

“The fire lines above 1000 meters of elevation, dug during British times to save forests from fires, have themselves became forests due to germination of several plants there. These fire lines used to be 20 to 150 meters wide saved forest above from spreading fire there,” said Dinesh Joshi, a forest officer.

According to forest officer, rise in temperature and absent of pet animals in villages has also caused widespread forest fires in recent years.”The pet animals of villagers used to graze the dry grass and leaves of that year making it less flammable in the forests but after the villagers migrated or left rearing pet animals, the grass deposits from back year results into highly flammable prone forests. Lack of snow and winter rains also leaves the forest deposits dry and inflammable,” said the forest officer.


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