A large area of the Dzuko valley, situated on the border of Nagaland and Manipur, has been engulfed in a massive wildfire raging for the last few days.
With the fire gradually spreading towards Manipur, in the direction of Mt. Iso, the state government has sought the assistance of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to bring the situation under control, official sources said.
The state has also requisitioned the Army and the paramilitary forces to assist firefighters in putting out the raging wildfire. Mt. Iso is the highest peak in Manipur.
According to the District Forest Office (DFO) in Senapati district, the fire may have originated in the Nagaland side of the border.
“As per the information gathered from villagers residing near the Nagaland border, the wildfire may have been raging since December 28 on the other side and reached Manipur border on Thursday morning. The matter is under investigation,” a senior forest official said.
A team of around 130 villagers, along with some forest officials, were sent to control the blaze and keep it from spreading to the Manipur side, he said. However, the initial attempt to control the fire manually was not successful due to high-velocity winds and the steep terrain, the forest official said, adding, “To reach the border, the team had to trek the steep terrain for 14 km”.
The Mao Council Manipur said it suspected arson and sought action against whoever is responsible for it.
Having a vast area of virgin forest, Mt. Iso has been engulfed by the wildfire and the local fauna has been damaged irreparably, the Council said.
With the situation alarming, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh conducted an aerial survey of Dzuko valley along with Chief Secretary Dr. Rajesh Kumar, DGP L.M. Khaute and Senapati DC Th. Kirankumar. The aerial survey started around 11:30 am and continued till 1:30 pm.
In addition to the first response team, 200 firefighters have also been deployed to put out the blaze.
In 2018, a similar fire at the valley triggered tension after Nagaland villagers allegedly detained 15 trekkers from Manipur. Locals claimed that the trekkers had started the fire. However, the trekkers denied the charge claiming that they were trying to put out the fire. They were later released following the intervention of both the states.
Dzuko valley is known for its scenic beauty, attracting tourists from around the world. The valley is home to ‘Dzuko Lilies’ that aren’t found anywhere else.