India — There seems to be a Chinese twist to the forest fires raging across an uncharacteristically dry Northeast this year. Meteorologists attributed the dry spell to moisture-laden winds from the Bay of Bengal veering off towards Tibet instead of precipitating over the Northeast.
Debakanta Handique, director of Regional Meteorological Centre here, confirmed: Only the Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh and a couple of places in Assam received 2.2 mm of pre-monsoon rainfall this month, much below the annual average of 25 mm. Barely a month after a blaze devoured one-fifth of the Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipurs Bishnupur district, forest fires have been reported from at least five places in Arunachal Pradesh.
This comes after the seasonal burning of elephant grass it is carried out every year to help new growth threatened to go out of control in Kaziranga National Park. Arunachal authorities fear the fires might have claimed many endangered animals. We have sent forest guards and rangers to stop the fires, wildlife officer Jumto Riba said, admitting, however, that his department was ill-equipped to combat fire in inaccessible areas.
Although officials are yet to assess the damage and ascertain the cause of the fires, locals blame it on the slash-and-burn method of cultivation. Residents claim it has been raining ashes and burnt leaves over the town. It even forced Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu to urge the people to desist from shifting cultivation.
Earlier, Manipur forest officials claimed that no sangai (brow-antlered deer) was killed or hurt in the fire in Keibul Lamjao. The endangered deer is found nowhere else in the world. But wildlife activists said the fire ignited by fishermen who ignored the ban on fishing inside the park could have killed other species such as wild hogs and barking deer.
Arunachal bans use of burnt forest land
In the wake of protests from environmentalists against large-scale burning of forest around the state capital by Jhum (shifting) cultivators,Itanagar administration on Tuesday issued orders banning use of any land left bereft of green cover for cultivation or settlement. In an order, Itanagar district magistrate Padmini Singla said land which had lost its green cover due to fire should be left as it is “so that it regains greenery naturally”.
The administration issued prohibitory orders empowering police to arrest anybody found involved in burning forests to acquire land for cultivation or settlement. Official sources said four persons have been detained in connection with the fire on Dariya hill in which forest land was burnt for the past several days lighting up the skyline and sending a smoke cover over the state capital.
Raging Mizoram fire leads to smoke pollution
Massive smoke caused by forest fires has led to pollution and increase in the average temperature in Mizoram, the state Pollution Control Board said. The quantity of nitrogen dioxide in the air stood at 19.5 ppm on March 12, but it remained negligible on a normal day, when measured by the high volume sampler, the board secretary, C Lalduhawma said. He feared that even the amount of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide might have increased.
“The readings of 19.5 ppm nitrogen dioxide would be normal for the metropolitan cities in the country, but it is very high for Mizoram, which is regarded as pollution free,” he said, adding it could trigger a plethora of health hazards in the state especially respiratory problems. He added that the temperature in the capital city Aizawl has gone up by 1.22 degree Celsius when compared with the average temperature of the last ten years. Meanwhile, all flights to and fro the state’s lone Lengpui Airport remained cancelled due to low visibility caused by smoke, airlines officials said.