3,600 hectare gutted in wildfire, dept yet to demand ‘costly’ choppers

Uttarakhand has reported 6,000 wildfire alerts since May 21 followed by Himachal that recorded over 3,500 such alerts in the same period, data collected by Forest Survey of India showed on Monday

dehradun Updated: May 28, 2018 22:20 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand News
(HT File)

Uttarakhand has reported 6,000 wildfire alerts since May 21 followed by Himachal that recorded over 3,500 such alerts in the same period, data collected by Forest Survey of India showed on Monday.

Despite a increase in forest fire incidents, the forest department isn’t keen on engaging choppers to douse wildfire as it will be a “costly affair”. In 2016, helicopters were engaged to douse forest fire.

Notably, nearly a fortnight is left for the official forest fire season in Uttarakhand to end on June 15.

From February 15 to 2 pm on Monday, 1,646 forest fires incidents were reported in Uttarakhand, gutting over 3,600 hectare land and an additional 38.7 hectare of plantation.

The resin godowns, too, are on fire here posing damage of 560 hectare bringing the estimated revenue loss to ₹68.57 lakh.

Wildfire situation in Uttarakhand showed a change in trend this season. In March this year, 205 fire incidents were reported posing damage to 414 hectare.

But, due to erratic rainfall received in April, this damage subside reporting only 3 incidents burning 3 hectare. May however, has proven difficult for the state.

The month alone forest fires burnt over 3,000 hectare.

In 2016, when a massive forest fire burnt over 4,500 hectare, majority damage was recorded in April (2,270 hectare) and May (2,187 hectare).

On pressing choppers into service, Jai Raj, head of forest force and principal chief conservator of forest, said: “Engaging choppers is a costly affair. We haven’t put any demand for them. If the government provides choppers to us, we won’t deny them either.”

The officer, however, claimed choppers do not help dousing wildfire in India. “The wildfire in India is ground fire unlike in counties like Australia where crown fire is reported.

“If you sprinkle water at an altitude of 10,000 feet from the ground, it is highly unlikely that the drops would reach the ground and provide a relief,” Jai Raj said.

The main reason for forest fire in the hill state is pine and its combustible needles. In a study done by Forest Research Institute, pine constitutes 26.07% of the total forest cover and 95.49% of the cover above 1,000 metre above sea level.

Experts advocate to clear pine needles from the forest in January-February to reduce chances of forest fire spread.

“The water content in the ground is less than 10% and in such situation, even a splint result in big fire. We need to start clearing the forest whether manually or through controlled burning to remove needles. This could help in bringing relief when the fire season is in the peak,” said FRI director Savita, who goes by her first name.

First Published: May 28, 2018 22:20 IST