DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand state government has sanctioned budget of Rs 16 crore to fight forest fires as the fire season kicked off on February 15. The fire season in the hill state is from February 15-June 15.
VK Gangte, chief conservator (forest fire and disaster management), said, "Preparations have been made to tackle forest fires. Now that we have got the budget, it will be easier to work towards saving the forests from the fire."
The department had completed the precautionary exercise of rotational burning and controlled burning to prevent the outbreak of forest fire out of control in February 2019.
In rotational burning, forest areas infested with dry mass full of weeds are burned out whereas in controlled burning forest waste is disposed of off to prevent forest fire. The exercise was completed till February 15, 2019, with more than 1.50 lakh hectares of area with rotational burning while controlled burning is still on in patches.
Total of about 8700Kms of fire lines has also been cleared to avoid forest fire incidents.
With total 40 control rooms and one Information Technology and Geoinformation Cell (ITGC) in Dehradun which manages 1437 crew station and 174 watchtowers across the hill state, the department officials said that forest fires are much controlled. The branch headed by Gupta which was in Haldwani till last year was shifted to Dehradun, in February 2018.
Since the formation Uttarakhand, forest fires have registered around 500 per cent increase in the state in terms of forest area engulfed by fire from 2000 to 2018 revelled an RTI.
In 19 these years, total forest engulfed was calculated 44,518.45 hectares while the total economic loss was Rs 1.85 crore.
In 2000, the total area affected was 925 hectares which jumped to 4,480 hectares by 2018.
The maximum area was destroyed in the year 2003 with 4983 hectares while least was in 2011 when only 231.75 hectares were destroyed.
The maximum economic loss occurred in 2018 with Rs 86.05 lakh while least economic loss occurred in year 2010 with Rs 0.05 lakh.
The state forest department, last year had launched its official handles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to allow people to alert the officials about forest fires.
Through these media, people can share photos, videos and location of the blazes on the official pages so that the department can act swiftly to mitigate the fire.
The department is already using toll-free numbers, drones and ground staff, but the officials believe the fire incidents can be monitored even better with the help of social media handles given its popularity among people, especially the younger generation of today's times.