Bushfire toll rises in Mizoram

Bushfire toll rises in Mizoram
– Villagers stoke jhum fire, govt clamps ban

13 March 2010

published by www.telegraphindia.com

India —  Six farmers have been charred in bushfires raging through jhum fields in three districts of Mizoram since mid-February.

Mizoram minister for forest and environment H. Rohluna today said while two siblings were charred to death in Lunglei district on Thursday, another was burnt to death in Sherchip district while three others were charred in Aizawl district. It is not known when the other four were killed.

He said the victims in the Lunglei fire have been identified as C. Lalrinmuana, 47, and Lalrinchhana, 35.

Rohluna disclosed that peasants had lit the fire for clearing the bush and undergrowth on the jhum fields to make them conducive for farming.

The forest minister, however, said a blanket ban on jhum fire took effect on March 10, and the forest department would now be very strict in enforcing this ban on burning bushes.

Last year, four persons had been charred by a bushfire in Mizoram. Despite that, the bushfires were set off after the harvest this year too.

Jhum farming starts with the clearing of jungles on cultivable lands in the northeastern states during the summer months to make the areas agriculture-friendly.

In Mizoram, rice is cultivated in about 85,000 hectares of land, of which two-thirds are still are under jhum cultivation in a cyclical order. In the slash-and-burn mode, the fields are left fallow till it is time to till and sow a fresh set of crops.

The state government is aware of the pernicious effect of such this cyclical farming practice as it robs the land of its nutrients.

Under an ambitious scheme of alternative and permanent agriculture practice in the state, the Congress government under the stewardship of chief minister Lalthanhawla, had chalked out an over Rs 2500crore plan for doing away with jhum (shifting) cultivation.

The new scheme has been christened the New Land Use Policy and it primarily envisages terrace farming in the state in a bid to restrict the farmers to a particular strip of land for years together.

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