Mongar:23 March 2005- Two days of rain from the morning of March 19 helped to put out a major forest fire in Mongar which has devastated more than a thousand acres of forest area between Sherichu and Rolong on the Trashigang – Mongar highway.
A team from the forestry department with help from villagers in the area had been fighting a losing battle to put out the flames on the rugged and steep hillsides since the evening of March 13 before the spring showers came to their aid.
According to the forest officials, although the fire couldnt burn down many pine trees, fanned by strong winds, acres of dry lemon grassland and saplings were destroyed.
The extent of devastation on the trees has been minimal because along that stretch there is only a sparse growth of trees, said the divisional forestry officer in Mongar.
A few bus passengers travelling the lateral route said that there were still small fires, which were just beginning to spread and could have been put out if only the passengers were willing to stop to extinguish the fire.
A few feet could have put out the fire had the bus stopped and people cooperated at that particular moment, said a passenger who works for a corporate firm. If the loss incurred by fire could be quantified in terms of monetary values, maybe then, people would be aware of the damage done.
There were three other forest fires in Trashigang. One started on February 27 in Jomtshang, Uzurong where about seven acres of forest was burnt although there was not much damage to the trees. The forestry people were able to extinguish the fire the same day.
The other forest fire occurred in Ritsadung in Kanglung. By the time the local community and the forestry people were able to kill the flames the next day about 70 acres of forest had already been destroyed.
A third forest fire took place in Upper Jomtshang, which damaged about 80 acres of land. According to the Trashigang dzongkhag forest officer (DFO), forest fires occur in these same areas every year. But the damage done to the vegetation this year was not much compared to last year and the year before, he said.
There are not many trees in these places anyway because of the fires in the past, said the DFO. These areas are rocky and filled with shrubs and grasses.
Forestry officials are investigating the cause of the fire.