Nainital residents allege forest personnel setting fire in j ..

04 February 2021

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INDIA – Nainital: Several eminent residents of Nainital, including Nainital-based environmentalist Anup Sah, former director of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) GS Rawat and activist Shekhar Pathak, have written to the chief conservator of forests, complaining that few forest department personnel have been setting fire to forests in the hills without written permission. The forest department carries out controlled burning from November to March in order to keep forest fires from spreading in the summer but that requires written permission.
The letter has asked the officials to constitute a team to look into why forests, even on private land, were being set ablaze and present its report.
The residents said that the burning was damaging the ecology and affecting animals as well as migratory birds. Radhika Bhati of Jilling Estate in Padampuri area of Nainital told TOI that the forest department had started a fire in her estate last week, gutting one square kilometer of area. “When we asked the personnel to show the permission letter, they said they had oral orders from senior officials,” Bhati said.
Anup Sah said that there had been barely any winter rains this season and the forests are already dry, which is why arbitrary burning of forests may prove to be dangerous. “The way in which the forest department has been setting fire to patches of forests is absolutely wrong. They have been burning the shrubs and smaller trees, which retain moisture and prevent big fires. After a month, when the highly inflammable pine needles start to fall, these shrubs would help prevent a forest fire but the forest department is destroying them already. We have therefore asked the forest department to immediately take steps to investigate the matter,” said Sah.
Forest department officials when queried about the issue, said they will look into the complaints and take necessary action.
“There is a prescribed protocol for controlled burning. A committee headed by the district magistrate decides on these issues and written permission is necessary for any burning. Controlled burning is necessary to limit the spread of bigger forest fires in summers. However, if local residents have complaints about forests being burnt without written authorisation, they will be looked into,” said Man Singh, nodal officer, forest fires.

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