Mizoram has sounded the fire alarm with the arrival of the dry season. The season coincides with the traditional jhum or shifting cultivation.
The hill state is prone to post winter wild fires that flatten forests and destroy property worth at least Rs. 45 crore every year.
To address this problem, Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla sought the people’s cooperation to prevent forest fire. Most fires are caused by jhum cultivation that entails slashing and burning forested slopes.
Inaugurating the Fire Prevention Week in state capital Aizawl on Tuesday, the chief minister urged local people to be vigilant against burning of forests allegedly by foreign nationals. He also expressed grave concern over illegal killing of wild animals and wanton destruction of aquatic life due to poisoning of water sources.
Mizoram environment and forest minister H Rohluna echoed the chief minister in warning those responsible for causing forest fires. He added that all jhum farmers in Mizoram have been asked to burn their patches before March 15.
According to a recent survey by Mizoram’s remote sensing application centre, the state has only 3,158.57 sq km of dense virgin forest not yet used for cultivation. This is just 14.98% of the total geographical area of the state.
The survey report says that the state has a medium dense forest area of 2,628.08 sq km which is 12.46% of the total land area and 3,738.57 sq km of less dense forest area (17.73%).
The scenario isn’t any better elsewhere in the northeast. Studies show that 6.3 million hectares of forests in the region were affected of which four states – Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh – accounted for 72%.