India loses Rs 500cr annually to forest fires

India loses Rs 500cr annually to forestfires

4 November 2007

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New Delhi, India — With no celebrities residing around the fire-proneforests areas in India, like the one in California, which was in news recentlyfor the devastating fire, most of the forest fires find no mention in thenational media, even when the country loses around Rs 500 crores annually due tothis fire.

This is not just the only bad news. Despite annual loss of bio-diversity andwildlife and official figures putting 50 per cent of country’s forest area asfire-prone, the Union environment ministry has no helicopter, which plays animportant role in dousing forest fires.

Also, it might come as a surprise to many that helping officials in fightingforest fire is one of the fundamental duties of the countrymen.

Estimates say that about 3.73 million hectare of forest area is annuallyaffected by forest fires, with Uttranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Northeast andMadhya Pradesh dry deciduous forests worst effected by these fires.

A senior official in the Union ministry of environment and forests said thatwhile one of the two helicopters that the ministry had, was damaged when it metan accident, the other is waiting for “condemnation”. While “canopyfire” is the one which is the worst of all fires, helicopters play animportant role in containing such fires. Though effective control of such firesand modern devices for fire management a lot can be done in controlling the areaof impact, most of the fire prone areas of our country still have to depend on”bush beating” and creation of the “strip”, which acts as abarrier.

“The strip is basically a six-feet-broad marked area, which is devoid ofany plantation so that the fire do not cross from one side to another. But it isuseful only when the fire is at lower levels,” said the senior official.

Though, the authorities have been working on fire danger rating system andforest fire forecasting system, it will take time to get it done. Even thoughForest Survey of India has been monitoring the fire prone areas daily, countryhas been losing forest cover annually in absence of modern tools.

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