Nagaland sends chopper SOS

Nagaland sends chopper SOS

15 January 2006

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Dimapur — Caught on the wrong foot by the raging bush fire in the Dzukou Valley, the Nagaland government today dashed off another SOS to Delhi seeking special choppers.

Nagaland forest secretary L. Kire, who conducted an aerial survey of the devastation, sent a report on the situation to the joint secretary in the Union home ministry’s Disaster Management Group this evening.

Sources in the forest department said the fire, which completed a week today, was showing no signs of dying out.

“Our hope now rests on the choppers which we have sought from the Centre,” one of them added.

The choppers, with specially fitted tanks beneath them, can carry water and chemicals, which are dropped into the fire.

“Oil companies like ONGC and Oil India Limited have such choppers, but we are not very sure whether these are based in the region,” an official of the forest department said.

Chief minister Neiphiu Rio, too, has sent an SOS to the Centre, seeking help from the Disaster Management Group.

The sources said the DMG’s head Ashim Khurana was in “constant touch” with Kire on the crisis.

The Dzukou Valley blaze is the biggest ecological disaster faced by Nagaland. It is the state’s lush green paradise and a biodiversity hotspot of the country.

The sources admitted that the state was not prepared to tackle the situation.

The accumulation of a huge amount of dry biomass during the wintry spell played the role of a catalyst for the wild blaze to wreak havoc in the isolated valley, making it extremely difficult to control the spreading fire.

The valley, one of the most scenic in the Northeast, is situated 30 km south of Kohima and is a major attraction for tourists as well as trekkers for its hiking trails.

State forest department staffers, with support from villagers in the surrounding villages and officials of the fire department, are trying to contain the wildfire, albeit without much success.

The sources said the huge concentration of biomass — dry leaves, grass and trees — was feeding the inferno, which was only helping the flames to spiral.

Yesterday, an IAF chopper was pressed into service for an aerial survey.

During summer and monsoon, the whole valley is wrapped in Himalayan wildflowers of a dazzling variety of hues. In summer, many kinds of flowers bloom by the sparkling streams, which snake through the valley but freeze during the winter months.

In the monsoon, the valley is decorated with lilies, euphorbias and thousands of other flowers unique to the valley. Colourful rhododendrons deck up the surrounding hills.

The predominant vegetation, however, is the tough bamboo brush.


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