Faced with a severe dry spell in the region, including state’s lower and tribal areas, massive fires have broken out in Kinnaur district, consuming some of the dense deodar and chilgoza forests. This has come as a huge blow to the forest wealth. Reports from the area reveal that Purbani, Bhaba and Ribba forests have been particularly hit by the raging fires, which has engulfed some of the villages already compelling the locals to seek immediate help of the forest administration and local authorities in the district. Some are trying hard to save their houses from the blaze, especially at night. Former MLA Tejwant Negi, who had alerted the administration two days back, on Wednesday expressed serious concern over the inability of the government to take urgent measures to save the forests, and locals’ properties. He wondered why no steps have been taken for the past three weeks since multiple fires broke out.
The massive fires, which had spread through several hectares of forest land, has also caused air pollution. The forest smoke has completely covered the sky making it difficult for people close to Purbani and Ribba to breathe. During the day, the sky was also overcast with a layer of smoke in Shimla town.
Meanwhile S S Negi, Principal Chief Conservator of forests, said, “A three-member team of top officials comprising C B Pandey, Suresh Kumar and Anil Joshi, all IFS officers, will be leaving for Kinnaur to take steps to control the fires. They have been asked to take necessary help from the Army, ITBP, home guards, fire brigade and eco-task force, beside local panchayats to organise steps to bring the fires under control.”
The Forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri said he had held a meeting with senior officers here on Tuesday and given necessary directions. Principal secretary (Forests) Tarun Kapoor and Lahaul Spiti MLA Ravi Thakur also attended the meeting.
Kinnaur is known for producing one of the finest apples as also a rich crop of dry fruits such as almonds and chilgoza. However, in the past few years, a large number of chilgoza trees have been felled to make way for hydel projects.