Dousing the summer fire in Uttarakhand - Hindustan Times
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Dousing the summer fire in Uttarakhand

ByHT Editorial
Apr 29, 2024 11:02 PM IST

The Uttarakhand fires, which are mostly ground fires caused by fallen leaves, can be kept in check if protocols regarding fire lines are followed.

Unusually high local temperatures and other natural factors have contributed to the massive forest fires in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region. Forest fires typically shoot up in March-May, with the large buildup of dry foliage and other biomass during the preceding winter months getting exacerbated by the onset of the summer heat. This year, the risk was compounded by a deficiency of winter precipitation. That said, negligence by the authorities and residents of the areas abutting the forest is as much to blame for the crisis in Uttarakhand.

Forest fire raging in Ranibagh area of Uttarakhand’s Nainital district on Saturday night.(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Forest fire raging in Ranibagh area of Uttarakhand’s Nainital district on Saturday night.(HT_PRINT)

The forest administration in the state has reported several incidents of delinquent fire-starting by individuals as well as negligent incineration to clear farmlands for sowing in certain areas. The authorities have promised strict action against such individuals. However, the scale of the crisis — fires have been raging for three days now, and, in terms of forest acreage affected, account for a large chunk of the total since last November — points to administrative failure. If clearing of fire lines took a backseat in an election year, the administration doesn’t come out of the embers looking clean.

While dousing operations are being conducted by Indian Air Force helicopters and the National Disaster Response Force has been rushed in to mount control measures, the reasons behind the high vulnerability of the state’s forests are too well known for mitigation measures to be still lacking. The Uttarakhand fires, which are mostly ground fires caused by fallen leaves, especially of chir pines, can be kept in check if protocols regarding fire lines are followed. There are no shortcuts here. In the long term, there should also be efforts to restore the geography to its traditional species that are less of a fire hazard.

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