Hindustan Times (Jammu)
HP forest dept seeks choppers to douse fires
SHIMLA: With the prolonged dry spell sparking off forest fires across all 12 districts of Himachal Pradesh, the forest department has sought choppers to douse the raging blaze as most affected patches are inaccessible by road.
The fires have so far devoured at least 8,415 hectares of forest land. Forest minister Rakesh Pathania said he will raise the issue in the Cabinet. “We have asked the government to provide us choppers as not all affected forests can be accessed through roads,” he said. Deficient rainfall, little moisture in soil and man-made blazes are responsible for the fire incidents. Himachal Pradesh frequently witnesses forest fires during dry weather as pines shed resinous needles that are inflammable. February recorded a rain deficit of 82% and March 62%.
Mandi worst affected
This year, at least 845 cases of the forest fire have been reported and 620 cases registered. With 132 fire incidents reported so far, Mandi is the worst affected district. As many as 101 incidents were logged in Bilaspur district’s cirh forests as the pine is highly combustible, 90 in Dharamshala and 72 in Nahan.
“Around two dozen incidents have been reported around Shimla this year. A fire in the woods surrounding the famous Tara Devi Temple could only be brought under control after three days. Shimla was engulfed in a blanket of smoke blanket in the morning. The government needs to make vigorous efforts to control the situation,” said former Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan.
₹136 crore loss incurred
Forest department officials estimate that so far 2,000 plants have been destroyed in fire and a loss of around ₹136 crore has been incurred. Apart from tying up with the fire department, the forest department is seeking villagers’ assistance and has deployed several tankers to douse the flames. A forest official, who did not wish to be named, said, “Most fire incidents are caused due to human negligence as they mostly start in and around habitations.”