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Explained: What caused Uttarakhand forest fires and how it can be prevented?

The ongoing forest fires in Uttarakhand, particularly in Nainital, have raised concerns about the extent of damage and the need for prevention measures. The fires, exacerbated by dry conditions and human negligence, have prompted intensified firefighting efforts involving various stakeholders.

Edited By: Nitin Kumar @Niitz1 Haldwani Published on: April 29, 2024 14:51 IST
Uttarakhand forest fires
Image Source : PTI/FILE PHOTO Uttarakhand forest fires.

Forest fires continue to ravage parts of Uttarakhand, particularly in Nainital, where nearly 108 hectares of forest land have been engulfed. In the past 25 hours alone, 26 incidents were reported in the Kumaon region and five in Garhwal, totaling 34.175 hectares in damage, as confirmed by the state forest department. Efforts to extinguish the fires and prevent further spread are underway, with stakeholders like the Indian Air Force, Army personnel, volunteers, and homeguard personnel joining the firefighting operations. Hotspots in Nainital, Haldwani, and Ramnagar forest divisions are receiving particular attention.

Causes of forest fires in Kumaon

The primary cause cited for the wildfires in Uttarakhand is heightened dryness, exacerbated by a heat wave in Champawat and Nainital districts bordering Nepal. Additionally, scanty winter rainfall and snow in the Himalayas since September have contributed to the problem.

Understanding wildfire behaviour

Wildfires thrive on three key components: fuel, heat, and oxygen. Dry leaves, pine needles, and other flammable materials act as fuel, while hot and dry weather conditions provide the necessary heat. Oxygen fuels the combustion process, allowing fires to spread rapidly.

Prevention measures

To prevent forest fires, various measures have been adopted, including the construction of watch towers for early detection, deployment of fire watchers, and the creation and maintenance of fire lines. Community participation and awareness programs are also crucial in forest fire management.

IAF’s role in fire suppression

The Indian Air Force has deployed a Mi-17 V5 helicopter equipped with a Bambi bucket to douse flames in Nainital and surrounding areas. The Bambi bucket, capable of carrying 5,000 liters of water, facilitates swift water drops to targeted fire zones, aiding in containment efforts.

10 key points

  1. Continued firefighting efforts: Despite progress in controlling several areas, Uttarakhand continued battling forest fires for the second consecutive day on Sunday. Eight new blazes erupted in the last 24 hours, necessitating extensive firefighting operations.
  2. Hotspots in Nainital: The Kumaon region, particularly Nainital district, emerged as a hotspot for forest fires. Blazes were reported in multiple locations across Nainital, Champawat, Almora, Pithoragarh, and Bageshwar.
  3. Extent of damage: The recent fires burned 11.75 hectares, adding to the total of 735.815 hectares ravaged since November 2023.
  4. Man-made fires: Reports from the state forest department suggested that most fires in Nainital and Pauri Garhwal were man-made, highlighting human negligence as a significant factor.
  5. Arrests made: Authorities in Rudraprayag and Garwah forest divisions arrested individuals for deliberately setting fires, emphasising the legal consequences under the Indian Forest Act.
  6. Farmland ignitions: Some fires originated from farmlands, spreading to adjacent forest areas due to negligence. Officials urge the public to report such incidents promptly.
  7. Public awareness campaign: A signature campaign launched in Dharchula aimed to raise public awareness about forest fire prevention in rural areas.
  8. Contributing factors: Chief Conservator of Forest attributed the spike in fires to increased dryness, exacerbated by heat waves in lower regions bordering Nepal.
  9. Humidity management: Former CM Harish Rawat stressed the importance of increasing humidity in forest areas, citing a comprehensive plan developed in 2015-16.
  10. Government response: Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced efforts to seek assistance from various institutions, including the Indian Army. He emphasised local cooperation and accountability for responsible officers.

Also read | Delhi Police to issue notice to social media handles on Amit Shah's 'tampered' video case

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