India — With forest fires still continuing in different areas across Uttarakhand, the State has lost more than 500 hectares of forestland this year to the blaze.
Though the State Forest Department has established 19 master control rooms and 1,133 crew stations in an effort to tackle the fires, it has not been able to control these effectively due to factors like increasing temperatures coupled with dry conditions in addition to perpetual staff shortage. Work boycott by the forest beat constables union has also hampered the efficiency of the department in tackling wildfires.
The indefinite period work boycott by forest constables under the banner of Uttaranchal Van Rakshak Sangh (UVRS) which started on Friday has created serious problems for the Forest Department especially with the forest fire season currently on. The forest constables staged sit-in protest at the department HQ in Dehradun for the sixth day on Saturday in support of their demands for promotion and salary increase. In addition to the ongoing work boycott, the UVRS also declared that it would force the closure of National Parks in Uttarakhand from April 21 if no proactive action is taken by the authorities till then.
Among the various regions hit by the scourge, areas on the outskirts of Dehradun, Haridwar and Rishikesh have been experiencing frequent fires. On Friday, the hill near Neelkanth was engulfed in fire which threatened human settlements and a police camp in the area. The fire got dangerously close to Maun village, Neelkant Zila Panchayat parking facility and a camp of Kumbh Mela police. The Forest Department and Fire Brigade had to struggle for four hours before the blaze in Neelkanth could be brought under control.
Agriculture land bordering forest areas in the Shivalik range was also damaged by forest fires. Closer to Dehradun, crops standing in farms were destroyed in different areas with wheat crop standing on three bigha area near Shuklapur village in Premnagar area of Dehradun burnt down in the latest incident.
According to official data, forest fires damaged more than 4,000 hectares of forest land and caused the death of 10 persons in the previous year. This year, more than 500 hectares of forest land has been damaged by forest fires though no human casualties have been reported.