India –-Forest fires in Himachal Pradesh have destroyed more than 20,000 acres of forest land and caused a loss of more than Rs 2.6 cr of green property in three weeks. The fires, which first started in the Hamirpur circle, were later also reported in the forests of Shimla, Nahan and Mandi.
The states forest department has been struggling to bring the fires under control. We are now pinning our hopes on the monsoons to put out the fires in the forests, admitted Avtar Singh, Conservator of Forest (Protection).
Perhaps the worst day of the spread was when forest fires on Shimlas periphery spread close to residential areas and locals had to be alerted about the danger of the fire reaching residential houses. Reports suggest that some of the dense green forest patches in the mid-Himachal areas as well as parts of the pine and deodar forests have been destroyed by the fires.
The rising temperature and the dry spell is one factor responsible for the jump in number of forest fires recently. However, it is not only high temperatures but also activities of people, arising either out of carelessness or deliberate actions, which have led to this severe problem, Avtar Singh said. Forest officials attribute some of the fires to locals who light the forests on fire in the evenings believing that that will help them get a better crop of grass or fodder after the monsoons.
The forest department has reported about 1,646 cases of fires, almost all related to human involvement. Of the total forest area burnt, 20 per cent is in Hamirpur alone. This is followed by Nahan, having 157 cases and an area of 2,797 hectres.
Forest fires have become a norm during summers due to the changing climate, thanks in part to the failure of the government to implement measures recommended by experts.