Shimla, India — Hundreds of hectares of forest havecaught fire in HimachalPradesh and it has already gutted almost 2000 hectares of the reserve forestarea falling under Shimla and SolanDistricts of the state.
Officials say, the fire usually starts due tonegligence of farmers, who set grasslands on fire in the hope that it willgenerate more pastures for their livestock or because of sheer negligence.
“These fires which engulf the forests in the breeding season will finishoff all the species of animals and birds. Actually, because of mismanagement,the concept of forests no longer exists. Because of this there is widespreadsocial and economic loss,” said Ramesh Sharma, environmentalist and writer.
Experts blame the government for the fire, as they have been plantingmonoculture Chir-pine trees, which damage other species and destroy forestdiversity and pasture, thereby increasing the chance of forest fire.”Theseforest fires are a great loss to us, when all the grassland is devoured by firelike this, then our animals are left with nothing to graze upon,” saidKamla Devi, a woman farmer.
But forest officials admit they are ill equipped to control such widespreadfires.
“These forest fires are an annual phenomenon, it happens every year. Theforests catch fire in the summers and the fire season starts from April 15. Wealways prepare ourselves well in advance to fight the fire but we do not havethe capability to fight big fires. Our fire teams are posted at 5 differentlocations and reach the site when intimated,” said Daljeet Daulta, RangeOfficer of Himachal Pradesh Forest Department.
Out of a total of 37, 033 sq. km of forest area, 8823 sq. km in Himachal Pradeshis fire-prone.