As the temperatures in Uttarakhand continue to rise, large parts of the hill state are under raging fire. By Wednesday, the area under forest fires reached 2,037.77 hectares, which is 793 hectares more than the land impacted by forest fires last year.
The state forest department, which records forest fire instances between February 15 and June 15 each year, noted a rise in the forest fire instances since Monday when the area under forest fire crossed 1,000 hectares. On Tuesday, 88 fresh forest fire incidents were noted, and the area engulfed by the fire increased to 1,213.77 hectares. On Wednesday, 295 fresh forest fire incidents were noted and the area under the fire reached 2,037.77 hectares.
On Wednesday Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat, during a video conference with the concerned forest department officials and the concerned district magistrates, demanded “quick action” to douse the fires.
The instruction from the chief minister came a day after the fire rapidly spread across the state, especially impacting the Pauri Garhwal district, which alone showed over 1,000 hectares of land under fire.
During the video conference, Rawat questioned the officials over the “unpreparedness” to deal with the raging fires. “If you claim that the we are equipped to deal with the forest fires then where are the results?” the chief minister asked the officials.
B P Gupta, nodal officer for forest fires in the state, told The Indian Express, “The forest department and the district administration (of the concerned 12 districts) are trying to contain the fires. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) sends us satellite data on the spots of forest fires, and we send teams to douse them.”
While Gupta claimed that the state had 40 master control rooms spread across all 40 forest divisions, along with 1,437 crew stations, and 174 watch towers to report forest fires and to subsequently douse the fires with the help of local communities and the concerned agencies, the fire instances have only been increasing, and with the Dehradun Meteorological Centre forecasting that the temperatures would continue to rise till May 27 with no rainfall in the areas hit by the fires, the situation remains grim.
Dehradun Meteorological Centre Director Bikram Singh said to The Indian Express, “In altitudes between 2,000-2,500 metres the temperature is around 30-32 degrees Celsius, which is upto 7 degrees higher than what the temperature should have been in this season leading to a heat wave to severe heat wave situation in the hills. In the plain areas the temperature has crossed 40 degrees Celsius, which is upto 5 degrees above normal.”
In the year 2016, 4,433.75 hectares of land was engulfed by forest fires and Indian Air Force’s Mi-17 helicopters were used for ferrying water to the inaccessible areas under forest fire to douse the fire.