Over 2,000 fire alerts reported from Uttarakhand in one week, over 1700 ha forest lost
The Indian Meteorological Department has predicted that conditions in the state are likely to become worse and forest fire will spread as maximum temperature is expected to go up till 40 degrees Celsius this week.Updated: May 29, 2019 15:19 IST
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
With temperatures continuously rising in Uttarakhand, the state received the highest number of forest fire alerts in the past one week, shows data from the Forest Survey of India.
Records of Forest Survey of India (FSI) show that in the past seven days since May 21, the highest number of fire alerts was reported from Uttarakhand at 2,181 through the Suomi National Polar Orbiting Operational Environment Satellite (SNPP) satellite. There were 64 large fires active in the state according to FSI data at the time of filing of this report, again the highest, followed by 10 such incidents being reported from Madhya Pradesh.
The Indian Meteorological Department has predicted that conditions in the state are likely to become worse and forest fire will spread as maximum temperature is expected to go up till 40 degrees Celsius this week.
This year the state has already lost over 1,798 hectares of forest including 1,341 hectares of reserve forest with 1,388 incidents being reported so far. Wildfires reported from Uttarakhand are mostly ground fires, which experts claim affects the soil retention capacity of forests leading to heavy soil erosion.
“As Uttarakhand witnessed ground fires mostly, the surface flora gets burnt and that affects soil retention capacity. The roots of these small plants hold the soil together and due to fire it (soil) gets washed away during monsoon, which comes soon after the forest fire season (February 15- June 15). Nothing can be done to control this as it takes minimum 2-3 years for the surface flora to regenerate,” said SS Negi, former director general of forests with Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC)
“Forest fires are a part of the ecological system of forests and that is why prevention of wildfire is more important than having to deal with fire. It becomes very difficult to control the situation in mountain regions, as choppers cannot be used for sprinkling of water as visibility reduces due to smoke. Chemicals also cannot be sprayed as it is enters the water bodies and has further side effects,” said Negi.
The main reason for surface fires in the Himalayan region is pine needles due to its high resin content. RBS Rawat, former principal chief conservator of forest in the state said, “There are mainly three reasons why forest fires take place in the state. It is either because of low rainfall, rising temperatures or either they are manmade. Another primary reason is widespread pine forests in the mid Himalayan regions.”
“Not a lot of biodiversity is lost, but in areas with pine forests, fresh surface flora is not able to grow after fire season. Micro-organisms or small ants and insects are also lost in the process of ground fire. To make sure the state does not face such a loss, prevention of forest fires is the only thing that can be done,” added Rawat.
A chopper going towards the Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib made an emergency landing on Tuesday in Chamoli district due to low visibility caused by smoke from forest fire over the region. “We have learnt that a chopper had to make an emergency landing in a field in the district, as the pilot could not see properly due to smoke from forest fire,” said GS Bhatt, district information officer, Chamoli. He further informed that no casualties were reported from the incident.
First Published: May 29, 2019 15:19 IST