India — The Uttarakhand forest department’s tall claims about controlling forest fires were exposed after chief conservator of forests (fire section) KS Sawant told Times of India that in the last two months, around 147 such incidents had been reported from across the state. He said 255 hectare of forest land was engulfed by fire and 60, 49 and 33 incidents of fire were reported from Kumaon, Garhwal and other wildlife protected areas.
Earlier, Uttarakhand forest minister Dinesh Aggarwal had claimed that the forest department has been able to control fires by creating fire lines for the summer season. However, the figures shared by Sawant clearly contradicted the minister’s claims.
Around 10 hectares of land in Silli forest and large part of Chandrapuri forest in Rudraprayag district caught fire recently. Ironically, district forest officer Kishan Chand expressed ignorance over vital aspects related to the matter. “We are yet to ascertain the cause of fire. It seems to be the handiwork of the villagers but we have not been able to track down the culprits. I don’t know the exact loss,” he had said.
“The forest department creates a control line – an area where the officials remove all the fuel so that the fire can’t travel across the forest. The department also undertakes controlled firing to reduce foliage which might lead to spreading of fire in summers. 90% of forest fire is manmade,” said SP Subudhi, director of Rajaji National Park.
Sources said that in case of a major fire, several departments engage in passing the buck and the funds available to tackle forest fires are not being utilized.
In the last two months, around 147 incidents of fire have been reported from across Uttarakhand and 255 hectare of forest land has been engulfed by fire.