Himachal Pradesh, India — The sudden rise in mercury in Himachal Pradesh in the past few days has triggered forest fires causing widespread damage to forest wealth of the state. Almost every forest in the state is on fire. Despite tall claims made by the state government and plans initiated to check the forest fires, precious forest wealth has been going on flames.
Although, before the onset of summers, the forest department had taken various preventive measures like creation of fire lines, removing of pine needles from road side, restoration of old paths and controlled burning of frosts, but these too have proved ineffective in the absence of adequate funds, man power and equipment.
A senior officer of the forest department while talking to The Tribune said forest department needed over ten crore to check the forest fires in the region but the department gets only around two crore annually under this head which is not sufficient to fight the fire menace.
Most of the fires have been reported from the highly flammable pine forests, as shedding of pine needles is in full swing these days. Though the chances of fires in other forest are not very high.
He appealed the villagers and panchayats to extend their cooperation in checking forest fires. He said no one should be allowed to smoke inside the forest, which could also be the reason for the forest fire.
The forests in Himachal Pradesh not only contribute in maintaining the ecological balance but also play a significant role in the economic development of the state. Here, forests provide physical sustenance to the fragile eco-system and also act as a source of precious raw material for rural and industrial application. The area under forest in the state totals 37,591 sq. km., of which only 11,780 sq. km. is under tree plantation.
The economists in the year1995 had put the total value of the state forest wealth at Rs. 39,000 crore. It is evident from the various surveys and studies conducted by the NGOs, that the drive for plantation for trees in the state has badly failed to gain momentum in past ten years. The areas under forest were shrinking year after year.
The state has planted trees only on papers. Meanwhile, reports reaching said forest fire had destroyed thousands of trees in Bindravan, Kandi, Alampur, Rantital, Baijnath, Kangra, Dhara Gopipur and Nurpur areas.