Uttarakhand is struggling to beat the forest fires which have again started spreading across its green cover and acutely feels the need for funds to fight the flames.
The state forest department says it has submitted a proposal to the Centre, requesting for funds to combat the fires.
According to Jai Raj, principal chief conservator of forest (planning and finance), a proposal of Rs 12.74 crore was submitted to the ministry on May 2 against which Centre has approved Rs 2.8 crore, which is yet to be released. “I have personally submitted the project under the intensive forest management scheme and Rs 2.8 crore will be dispersed soon,” he said.
Raj said that the funds demanded were for preventive and recovery measures after forest fires gutted 4,100 hectares of wood lands this season. Various steps like maintenance of forest fire lines, clearing encroachment, plantation and others would be taken with the funds, he said.
However, officials in the union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF) have denied receiving any such request.
A senior official at MoEF, on the condition of anonymity, told Hindustan Times that no such proposal has been submitted till date. “We haven’t received any proposal from the state government on wildfires and its management,” he said.
The forest department on April 28 submitted another proposal under the special plan assistance worth Rs 17.52 crore. This proposal is still pending with the state.
The disperal of funds is all the more important since this year’s fires, which broke out ahead of schedule on February 2, caught the forest department unawares, with the departmental coffers near empty and unable to engage fire fighters.
“We didn’t have funds to combat wildfires when the season began,” head of forest force Rajinder Kumar Mahajan confirmed.