In April 645 forest fires reported in Himachal Pradesh due to early summers

The area affected due to these fires is 4976.63 hectares of this 4006.91 hectares natural area and 927.72 hectares of plantations.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

CHANDIGARH: Every day twenty-four forest fires are being reported in Himachal Pradesh as in April alone till Wednesday 645 forest fires have been reported in the hill state due to early summers, temperatures rising, and prolonged dry spells.

As per the data with the state forest department, 645 forest fires have taken place across the state from April 1 to 27 of these the highest are in Dharamsala circle 165 forest fires followed by Rampur circle 116 then 89 in Shimla circle, 83 in Mandi circle and 63 in Chamba.

The area affected due to these fires is 4976.63 hectares of this 4006.91 hectares natural area and 927.72 hectares of plantations.

Sources said that a majority of the forests where fire has been reported are chir pine forests some other forests too have been damaged. These chir pine forests where most of the fires are taking place constitute about 15 per cent of the total forest cover in Himachal Pradesh. A few days back a massive fire was reported in the Tara Devi forest along the Shimla-Solan highway which lasted for two to three days.

The forest fire season is from April 1 to June 30 but this time many fires have been reported within the first month itself. Thus now there is nothing left for the animals to eat and drink in the forests which
have been destroyed by the fire.

A senior officer of the department said, "The fires started two weeks early this year due to a sudden rise in temperature. Some 9,000 forest fire volunteers have been roped in to help the staff of the Forest Department to report and contain forest fires."

"Also the home guard volunteers, ITBP and police personnel are extending help to the forest department. Also, 150 forest ranges that are most vulnerable to forest fires have been identified and we are taking
precautions to avert fire incidents. The Forest Fire Alert Messaging System (FAMS) is being updated quarterly were an immediate alert of smoke bellowing out from a forest is sent by the satellite imagery with the Forest Survey of India (FSI) but this year the situation is alarming.’’

"Specific instructions have been issued to all the field officers to ensure that person to person contacts are made by forest guards in their jurisdiction and publicity material is distributed to people to make them aware of consequences of forest fires,’’ he said.

He added, "The state government has formulated Pine Needle Policy under which there is the provision of 50 per cent subsidy for entrepreneurs in establishing Pine Briquetting Plant. Seven entrepreneurs are availing subsidy under this policy.’’

Sources said that as per the data from the forest department 2,469 forest fires took place in 2018 nearly 25,300 hectares of forest land in the state was burnt which was the worst year in the last few years and then in 2012-13, 1,798 forest fires were reported in which 20,773 hectares was destroyed.

Forest officials say that most fire incidents are started by human negligence as it has been noticed that they start in and around habitations. While environmentalists have suggested that forest composition policy should be framed and inflammable chir pine be replaced with broad-leafed trees in the lower hills.

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The New Indian Express