Forest fires, which began in May 2018, have devastated Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand has received 3,000 forest fire alerts in last eight days, which is 10 times the number it recorded last year. As per the Uttarakhand forest department, 741 fire incidents were reported beginning February 15 till May 21 in which 1213.76-hectare forest area was destroyed posing revenue loss of over Rs 21 lakh. The region has been facing heat waves since the mishap and temperatures have shot up to 40 degrees Celsius.
Both natural and man-made forces are responsible for the fires
The main reason for forest fires is high temperature and lack of rainfall in the region. Extremely dry and hot climate has created ideal conditions for fires to spread.
Further, Chir pine trees, which are prone to catch fire, make up 16% of the Uttarakhand forests. It is suspected that nefarious forces including the ‘Timber Mafia’ interested in gaining access to protected forests may have capitalised on these conditions to deliberately start the fires.
Political leaders in Uttarakhand, already reeling from one political crisis in 2016, have been criticised for their callous indifference to the fires and delay in producing a response. Local residents in the affected regions have claimed that despite massive damages by fires, the government has not taken required remedial steps to control the fire. Moreover, there are some who have also accused them of collaborating with various ‘timber mafias’ to start the fires.
The fires have severely affected state tourism
Since summer is peak vacation season, Uttarakhand attracts thousands of tourists every year. But due to the fires many tourists have either cancelled or postponed their vacations to the state. This affects the state’s revenue making it more expensive to control fires.
They pose a threat to glaciers
Black carbon released from the smog and ash of the fires has affected glaciers in the Himalayas. Forest fires add to global warming and pose a threat to glaciers, causing them to melt faster.
The fires are still not under control, but firefighters are working hard
Leaves of all forest staff have been cancelled and an officer of the forest rank has been appointed in each of the 13 districts of Uttarakhand. Master control rooms are monitoring the situation 24X7 and over 600 alerts have been received from surrounding areas. Officials are now ready to take prompt action to control the fires.