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Uttarakhand

Posted at: Apr 4, 2017, 1:22 AM; last updated: Apr 4, 2017, 1:22 AM (IST)

State braces itself to tackle forest fires

State braces itself to tackle forest fires
Villagers try to douse forest fire in Rudraprayag district on Monday.

Tribune News Service

Dehradun, April 3

With the mercury rising sharply, Uttarakhand has started making efforts to tackle forest fires. An expanse of 85 hectares of forests in the state has already been affected due to forest fires with as many as 57 forest fire incidents recorded since February 15, the official date of start of the forest fire season in the state. Out of the 85 hectares, 32.20 hectares are part of reserve forests.

With around 65 per cent of its geographical area under forests, Uttarakhand every summer faces the challenge of forest fires.

Most of these forest fires are manmade. Both intentional and human carelessness contribute to these forest fires. Burning of crop residues or even bonfires by tourists in close proximity of forest areas result in forest fires. But another major factor is the presence of chir (pine) trees in large numbers in Uttarakhand forests. The pine needles that fall on the ground are like tinder boxes, which are mostly responsible for forest fires.

Last year, Uttarakhand faced a devastating forest fire and the state government was forced to set up a high-level crisis management group. Temperatures have yet again risen this year. The temperature at the hill district of Rudraprayag was 37 degrees Celsius on March 31. Similarly, other hill districts like Pauri, Almora and Pithoragarh too are experiencing temperatures ranging from 28 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees, hinting at another tough year for the state Forest Department.

Tackling forest fires is a major challenge, particularly when temperatures start soaring early, admits Chief Conservator of Forests (Forest Fire Management) BP Gupta. He, however, asserts that the state Forest Department has kept itself fully prepared to curb forest fires in best possible manners.

A total of 40 master control rooms have been set up that are further linked to 1,312 crew stations constituted for timely action in case of detection of a forest fire. Wireless connectivity has been ensured in all these crew stations and master control rooms.

For the first time, Uttarakhand forest authorities have identified fire-sensitive zones based on the past 10-year data. These zones have been vulnerable to forest fires in the past and need extra attention. 

Acknowledging that forest fires certainly led to loss of precious forest wealth, Director General, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Dr SC Gairola asserted there was not a single solution to check forest fires.

“We need to use our full knowledge base. Uttarakhand has a tough hilly terrain and it was not easy to approach forest fire affected areas,” Dr Gairola said. He also laid emphasis on adoption of modern technologies for tackling forest fires and usage of modern forest fire control tools.

New Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat too yesterday convened a meeting of senior forest officers in the state and directed for effective measures to deal with forest fires. He also suggested for lopping of pine trees to avoid the spread of forest fires.

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