India — The Assam government has put the administration and forest department in North Cachar Hills district on an alert against recurrent bushfire on the hill slopes.
A senior official in Haflong today said in two fires, one in Tinkilo village on Wednesday and another in Gujjung village on Sunday, 32 wooden houses were gutted when the blaze from the adjoining fields leapt across the jungle and engulfed the adjacent huts.
Bushfires in the 4,888-sqkm district are frequently sparked by man-made fires lit by peasants in their jhum fields every spring. The jhum cultivation, which is common in the hill areas of the Northeast, generally starts in the spring months when the first drops of rain hit the earth.
In the last two incidents, police with the help of fire tenders, fought the blaze and was able to douse the expanding inferno.
The Tinkilo village is a Nepali settlement where as many as 20 houses were razed. The blaze could not be controlled as Umrangshu, the nearest town, lacked any fire tending unit. Ultimately, a fire tender from the ASEB was requisitioned to bring the situation under control.
The age-old jhum cultivation, which has been going on in an unrelenting manner in the hill slopes, has not been replaced by the alternative settled farming as the Integrated Tribal Development Project failed to take off.
Administration sources said the district authorities have asked the forest and environment department to formulate a package of preventive measures against such forest fires every summer month. The jhum fires this year had killed seven persons in three districts of Mizoram, where such farming practice is still prevalent.