DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand state forest department officials have termed the viral picture of forest fire on social media "mostly fake".
BK Gangte, chief conservator (forest fire and disaster management), said, "The fires have been in much control this year with rains at regular intervals, better management and less amount of human interference due to lockdown."
After the fake picture went viral, Uttarakhand Chief Minister took to Twitter to say that impact of the wildfires is not the same as propagated. He tweeted, "A misleading propaganda using old pics of forest fires 2016 & 2019 & that of forest fires in Chilean & Chinese forests raging on SM (social media). I request everyone to not believe such a motivated campaign. Fire incidents reported until yesterday is way less than the previous year."
Official social media handles of Uttarakhand state forest department also jumped in action and added that this year the losses have been significantly low. Meanwhile, #PrayForUttarakhand and #SaveTheHimalyas are trending on Twitter garnering the attention of celebrities and officials across the country including the netizens.
Parag Madhukar Dhakate, chief conservator of forest, Kumaon division of Uttarakhand, said, "The data is self-explanatory and the picture circulated are mostly fake. One should inquire before drawing wild conclusions. Everything on the internet is not true."
They also added that the loss and incidents are at least 90% less in comparison to last year.
Last year, till May 25, the total area engulfed by the forest fires stood 1590 hectares. During the corresponding period this year, only 71.46 hectares of area was gutted.
Since the formation of Uttarakhand, forest fires have registered around 500% increase in the state in terms of forest area engulfed by fire from 2000 to 2018 revealed an RTI. To date, a total of 88 incidents of wildfires have occurred in the state with around 110 hectares of forest area affected by the wildfires.
In 19 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 the least was in 2011 when only 231.75 hectares were destroyed.
The maximum economic loss occurred in 2018 with Rs 86.05 lakh while the least economic loss occurred in the year 2010 with Rs 0.05 lakh.
The state forest department, in the year 2018 had launched its official handles on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to allow people to alert the officials about forest fires.
Through these mediums, people can share photos, videos, and locations 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.