Himachal fighting forest fires after prolonged dry spell

Published on Apr 06, 2021 12:56 PM IST

The prolonged dry spell this year has sparked off fires in the chir pine forests of the lower hills of Himachal Pradesh with 845 such incidents reported in April in Shimla, Solan, Mandi, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Kangra and Hamirpur districts

As many as 845 incidents of forest fire have been reported in Himachal Pradesh so far in April. (HT file photo)
As many as 845 incidents of forest fire have been reported in Himachal Pradesh so far in April. (HT file photo)

The prolonged dry spell this year has sparked off fires in the chir pine forests of the lower hills of Himachal Pradesh with 845 such incidents reported in April in Shimla, Solan, Mandi, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Kangra and Hamirpur districts.

The raging fire, which causes extensive damage to flora and fauna, has the forest department on its toes. In the past two months, more than 8,455.2 hectares of forest land has been destroyed due to the fire.

Himachal Pradesh frequently witnesses forest fires during the dry weather as pines shed resinous needles that are inflammable. February recorded a rain deficit of 82% and March witnessed a deficit of 62%. “Two months have been dry, and the incidents of forest fires have increased as there is less moisture on the ground and temperatures have begun rising,” state forest minister Rakesh Pathania said.

“We have roped in the fire department but dousing the blaze in the remote areas, particularly those inaccessible by road, is a challenge. The forest department is trying to rope in local people,” he said.

Human negligence sparks off blaze

Forest officials say that most fire incidents are started by human negligence as it’s been noticed that they start in and around habitations. More than a dozen such incidents have been reported from areas surrounding Shimla so far this year. The smoke blanket has become a health hazard for residents and environmentalists have sought a solution to the recurring problem.

Sanjay Chauhan, a former mayor of Shimla, says, “One such fire is raging in the Junga Forest Range, 25km from Shimla. It’s visible from the Secretariat for the past four days but neither the forest department nor any other department has showed seriousness in dousing it. This forest adjoining Kufri wildlife sanctuary that surrounds Shimla is one of the biggest green covers and the catchment area for water sources of Koti and Brandi. The government should wake up and proactively protect forests.”

Replace chir pine with broadleafed trees

Environmentalists have suggested framing a forest composition policy and replacing the inflammable chir pine with broadleafed trees in the lower hills. “We see a similar scenario every other year but refuse to face the real issue of replacing the chir pine monocultures that are vulnerable to fire. Until there is policy and the chir is replaced, this problem will persist. It is not the responsibility of the forest department alone. Local communities are custodians living around forests,” says environmentalist Manshi Asher. She suggests creating forest protection committees that can take on this task with the support of the forest department.

Fire watchers to aerial surveys to check spread

Official data shows that 2018 was the worst year of forest fires with 2,469 incidents reported. It was the highest in eight years in which nearly 25,300 hectares of forest land in the state was burnt. In 2012-13, the second worst year, pine forests over 20,773 hectares were destroyed with a total of 1,798 fires reported.

The state forest department has drawn up a policy for converting the chir pine waste into combustible bricks. Besides, it has deployed 6,000 members of the forest staff as fire watchers for the timely dousing of flames. It now plans to conduct aerial surveys to take stock of the situation.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia at his residence during a CBI raid in connection with alleged irregularities in Delhi Excise Policy on Friday. (ANI)

    In Delhi, 12 IAS officers transferred hours after CBI raid on Manish Sisodia

    In a minor bureaucratic reshuffle, 12 IAS officers were transferred within the Delhi government on Friday, hours after a CBI raid at the residence of deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in connection with alleged irregularities in the implementation of the excise policy. The reshuffle, however, is not connected to the raids, an official aware of the development said. A 2007-batch IAS officer, Vijendra Singh Rawat will also hold the additional charge of director (planning).

  • Several people in Lucnowl felt the tremor and came out of their houses in the wee hours of Saturday (Representative Image)

    Tremors felt in Lucknow as earthquake of 5.2 magnitude hits UP capital

    Tremors were felt in Lucknow in the wee hours of Saturday as a 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit the state capital. According to the National Centre for Seismology, the earthquake occurred at 1.12am on Saturday and lasted for nearly 5 to 8 seconds. The National Centre for Seismology in a tweet said the city's north-northeast area witnessed the most impact. Himachal Pradesh's Kinnaur district was hit by an earthquake of magnitude 3.1 on Friday.

  • In a crackdown on multiple cases, Bengaluru police have nabbed persons for fake land documents, theft and more. (Image source: K.S.LAYOUT TRAFFIC BTP/Twitter)

    Bengaluru crime watch: 12 in net for wheeling, dacoity, theft and more

    In some of the recent crime news from Bengaluru, police have arrested accused in cases relating to fake documents, theft and wheeling between Thursday - Friday. August 19 Anoop A Shetty, the DCP of Bengaluru's north east division, shared on social media that a person has been arrested by police for creating fake land documents to cheat unsuspecting individuals. August 19 The officer, Anoop Shetty, also revealed another development in Bengaluru's Chikkajala area.

  • File image of people riding on a swing in a carnival.

    Madras Day 2022: Chennai turns 383, celebrations at Elliot’s beach

    Chennai Day 2022: The Greater Chennai Corporation is organising Madras Day celebrations at Elliot's Beach in Besant Nagar as Chennai turns 383 years on Saturday. The celebrations will be held in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry. The entry to the two-day celebration event will commence on Saturday at 3:30 pm.

  • Massive crowd at Bankey Bihari temple in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.

    Janmashtami: 2 die of suffocation at Mathura's Bankey Bihari temple

    At least two people died of stampede and suffocation, while several people were taken to the hospital at the Bankey Bihari temple in Uttar Pradesh's Mathura during midnight celebrations of Janmashtami. Thousands of devotees thronged the famous Banke Bihari to offer prayers and participate in the rituals, leaving very little room to breathe. The incident happened at around 2am during Mangla Arti at the temple. Devotees were seen dancing in the midnight celebrations.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, August 20, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now