Uttarakhand shows 98% dip in forest area gutted this year compared to 2019
A fresh data released by the Uttarakhand forest department on the area affected by forest fires showed around 98% dip between April 5 and May 10, as compared to the corresponding period last year.
In 2019, 675.84 hectares were gutted by the raging forest fires, but this year 12.03 hectares have been affected owing to the nationwide lockdown restrictions imposed since March 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak coupled with intermittent rainfall, said BK Gangte, nodal officer for forest fires in the state.
“There is around 98% difference between the forest area affected till May 10, 2019, and this year. This is primarily due to two factors: intermittent rainfall maintaining the moisture level of the forests and the strict enforcement of lockdown restrictions,” said Gangte.
In Uttarakhand, 0.17%, 1.60%, 9.32%, 21.66%, and 67.25% of total forest cover comes under extremely fire-prone, very highly fire-prone, highly moderately fire-prone, and less fire-prone categories, respectively.
The state forest department is using innovative pine needle check-dam technology in a bid to reduce the forest fire incidents. This technology helps in reducing the forest fuel load, improves the soil-moisture regime, and enhances the water availability in remote areas in the hill state. Soil conservation technology also aids plant regeneration.
The resin-rich pine needles are highly inflammable and have been found to be a major cause of forest fires.
Parag Madhukar Dhakate, the chief conservator of forests (CCF) for western circle in Uttarakhand, said that the pine-needle check dam concept is being used in almost all the divisions of the hill state, including Nainital, Pithoragarh, Champawat, Tehri Garhwal, Almora, and Ranikhet among others.
“A fire triangle of air, temperature, and fuel load is needed for forest fire incidents to occur. If even one of the factors from this triangle is removed, then such incidents can come down drastically. We can manage the fuel load, as temperature and air are beyond human control. Forest fires will reduce if the fuel load from pine needles is removed,” said Dhakate.
“Pines account for around 50% of forests in Uttarakhand. Forest fire incidents have come down due to the making of check-dams that also prevent soil erosion. The water in the hills has a high calcium content, which over a period of time helps the making of check-dam from pine needles that solidify and, in turn, prevent soil erosion. Plant regeneration is the other spin-off factor,” he added.