Forest fires rage in Himachal, 503 incidents in nearly 4 weeks
The ongoing dry spell in Himachal Pradesh has not only caused extensive damage to crops, but also triggered raging fires across forest areas in the hill state, particularly cheer pines in the mid belt
The ongoing dry spell in Himachal Pradesh has not only caused extensive damage to crops, but also triggered raging fires across forest areas in the hill state, particularly cheer pines in the mid belt.
The forest fires have started a month early this year and caused widespread destruction of the state’s green wealth. Since April 1, 503 such incidents have been reported from different parts of the state, mostly Shimla, Solan, Bilaspur, Mandi and Kangra districts. Flora and fauna on 3,575 hectares of land have been damaged and the government has so far assessed the total loss at ₹92 lakh. Dharamshala is the worst hit with 120 cases so far.
Trees usually shed their pines between mid-April and May end. They are highly combustible due to high resin content. Heaps of the needles spread across the forest land easily catch fire, however, there is another facet to it: the practice of waste burning by communities living in the vicinity of these forests.
“The last two months have been completely dry. The temperatures are rising which has caused the spike in forest fires. The fires started two weeks early this year due to a sudden rise in temperature,” says forest minister Rakesh Pathania
In Shimla, smokes billowing from the deciduous forests in the vicinity of the town is almost a common sight. Due to the raging forest fires and rising mercury level, the state capital is engulfed in smoke. “The forests are mostly on the ground and it damages the shrubs and wild animals. We are getting help from villages to douse them,” says principal chief conservator forest Ajay Srivastava .
As many as 50 cases have been reported in Shimla and the district fire department has been engaged in dousing fires in forests adjacent to the roads. However, there are thousands of hectares of land where fire fighting vehicles cannot reach. Forest conservator Shimla SD Sharma said that the report of the damages caused by the fires is being prepared.
Jungle devastated; animals started entering villages in search of food
At the same time, due to the fires in other forests adjacent to the Shimla including Taradevi, Chakkar, Glen and Summerhill, wild animals have now started entering the villages. The animals are causing damage to the crops in the fields, due to which the farmers are worried. Tomato, beans, capsicum, cabbage, onion, cucumber, okra, and many other crops are being grown in these rural areas of the capital.
According to the forest department, now there is nothing left for the animals to eat and drink in the forests which have been destroyed by the fire. “The smell of the smoke is repulsive for the animals and it leads to fear and stress, due to which they are straying into fields,” says Kisan Sabha member Satyawaan Pundir
Hares, wild boars, Barking deer, Ghoral and porcupines are some of the animal species inhabiting the forest.
1,800 youth clubs to extend help
The sports department has volunteered to help the forest department in dousing the fire.
Director of youth services and sports Rajesh Sharma has instructed all district deputy directors in this regard. While reviewing departmental work at Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, Shimla, the newly appointed director said, “There are 1,800 youth clubs in the state and they help the forest department,” he said.
Jawans of the home guard, ITBP and police are also extending help to the forest department.