Two Indian Air Force (IAF) choppers began spraying water over the burning forests in Uttarakhand on Sunday morning.
A seven-member crew of MI-17 chopper, headed by Wing Commander VK Singh, began the sortie in Nainital district. Forces are collecting water in ‘bambi buckets’ from the Bhimtal lake, to be sprinkled over the worst affected areas -- Kilbury, Nalenda, Almakhna in Nainital.
“One MI-17 chopper has been stationed at Bhimtal near Nainital, which is being loaded with water collected from the lakes in the area and will begin spraying water over affected areas from Sunday,” chief secretary Shatrughna Singh had said on Saturday.
Another IAF chopper based at Srinagar Garhwal will douse water in the Garhwal hills. More than 2300 hectares of forest have been gutted in the fire since it was first reported in February this year. Dry winters and soaring temperatures are blamed for the fire that has affected all 13 districts of the state.
Forest fires have spread to protected wildlife areas too. Around 550 hectares have been burnt in the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Rajaji Tiger Reserve and Kedarnath Wildlife sanctuary.
Forest officials fear loss of trees and wildlife in the forest fires. Six people have also been killed in the fire while around 12 have been injured in separate incidents.
Director general of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, SS Negi, said Uttarakhand forest fires were “unprecedented”. He said Uttarakhand lacks manpower to douse the fire.
“Presently, some 5,000 workers -- including 3,000 daily wagers -- are engaged in putting out the fire. Three National Disasrer Response Force (NDRF) teams have also been pressed into services. We have asked Uttar Pradesh to send 500 people that could be placed in the sensitive protected areas.” Negi told HT.
Since the beginning of forest fire season in the state in February, 922 incidents have occurred in which seven people were injured and 1890.79 hectares of green cover has been affected, Gupta told PTI.
Worried over forest fires that are still raging in different parts of the state, governor KK Paul reviewed rescue efforts underway via video conferencing with officials in the field and asked them to speed up their efforts.
NDRF companies assisted by expert teams and locals are conducting fire extinguishing and rescue operations in affected areas of Garhwal and Kumaon regions.
IG, Sanjay Gunjyal, is coordinating with the NDRF, district magistrates and principal conservator of forest to supervise rescue operations.
(With inputs from PTI)