Shimla: As summer temperatures soar, forest fires blaze through newly planted and forested areas, laying waste much efforts to increase the states green cover even as the department underplays the losses incurring.
Chief forest conservator Avtar Singh, who is in charge of monitoring and containing forest fires, disclosed that till June 15, a total of 1340 cases of summer fires had been reported in the states forests.
The total area damaged by these uncontrolled man made or natural infernos was estimated at 16,104 hectares, much more than last year’s 1758 hectares.
“As there was a sudden rise in temperatures from May 15, a spurt in forest fires has been reported from many parts of the state,” said Singh.
“Though the number of new fires being reported has started coming down since June 10 but the overall loss till date is estimated at Rs 1.81 crore,” he added.
The conservator said that one human life was lost to a forest inferno this year and the departments record don’t reflect the losses to wildlife that may have occurred in these blazes.
Barring the cold desert districts of Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, all other 10 ten districts in the state have reported forest fires
“Several myths prevail among the local populace,” says Khimmi Ram, the forest minister. Farmers believe that grasslands are rejuvenated if the old grass cover is burnt down and this reason alone has led to a large number of forest fires, he says.
Conservators are a frustrated lot as about 4023 hectares of fires were in newly planted areas, causing a high mortality rate of young trees.
As much as 6165 hectares of scrub forests have suffered fire damage and the number still counting, high content of resin in Chil (Pine) forests is prone to natural fires as summer temperatures continue to remain high. Over 4023 hectares of pine forests have been damaged by infernos so far this year.
A project to apply GPS systems for management of forests, which included reporting and containing forest fires, mooted two years ago, has failed to be executed so far.
Department sources revealed that deploying the technology to provide real time data for managing the states vast forests would still take another six months for implementation.
Of the states 55.673 square Km area as much as 37,033 has been classified as forest lands.