India — The picturesque Zdukhu valley in southern Nagaland, a tourist heaven, is in flames and already a 50 square-kilometre area has been destroyed by the devastating fire which is spreading fast.
Official sources here said the fire, raging since last week, is spreading towards the south-western periphery of the valley.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has sent an SOS to the Union Home Ministry as well as the Forest and Environment Ministry seeking help as neither experts nor fire fighting equipment to control the fire of this scale are available in the state.
On top of this, the area, stretching up to Manipur’s Senapati district, is not easily accessible. There is no motorable road to the valley and it takes at least eight to 10 hours on foot to reach the spot from the nearest village in Kohima district, the sources said.
Nobody knew how the fire, first spotted by villagers last week, broke out, but forest officials in the state guessed that firewood left by picknickers and burning cigarette butts could have set the dry grass that filled the vast expanse at this time of the year on fire.
The valley is a favourite destination for picnickers and trekkers during winter. During rainy season the entire valley transformed into a valley of flowers of varied hues.
Instructed by the disaster management department of the Union Home Ministry, an IAF team, accompanied by the Nagaland forest secretary, I Kire, made an aerial survey of the burning valley on a chopper yesterday.
According to a preliminary assessment made by the survey team, more than 50 square kilometre area has turned black completely and the fire is spreading over a 20 square kilometre area in the south-western part of the valley. Government officials and NGOs are worried over the forest fire as the valley is touching the biologically rich Japfu mountain range, famous for many endangered species of flora and fauna, including highly threatened Blythe Tragopans.
The official sources said no (no) damage had as yet been done to the human habitation in the valley and the government was in constant touch with the Disaster Management Department of the Union Home Ministry.