Forest fires eat into green cover in Narkanda, Himachal

Shimla: It’s not summer yet for the apple trees are in full blossom, but impact of rising temperatures and absence of spring rains has already begun to tell on the green cover as billowing smoke from forests fires have cast a haze in many valleys of Shimla hills.

Expressing helplessness about a forest fire raging in a valley that has engulfed the entire area in smoke, Jagmohan, a resident of Narkanda said, “It’s sad that somebody in ignorance has set the forest on fire in the valley in the hope that it will cause rain.”

A member of an eco-club at the tourist resort, he adds “we have tried to contain fires around these ranges but the sudden rise in temperature has started out these forest fires rather early this year.”

When contacted Avtar Singh, chief conservator fires said that barring a report of fires in Nalagarh forest division, others had not been reported yet.

He said that impact of climate change was being witnessed in early onset of forest fires which normally used to break out in late April or May. “Even last year, fires had begun to get reported by March,” said Singh.

When asked about forest fires sighted raging in Jadaun valley of Narkanda and Balsan valley of Theog on Friday, the chief conservator expressed ignorance saying that such reports are compiled a day later.

“We have taken many steps to contain the fires and anyone found to have started one would be severely dealt by the law,” he said.

Finding the going tough to contain the problem, the forest department has made it a criminal offence to book those found involved in causing these fires and has constituted ‘rapid response teams’ to do the fire-fighting.

In 2009 between March and June about 925 fires were recorded that had burnt down in excess of 10, 600 hectares of forest lands. Of the states total geographical area of 55,673 sq km about 37,033 sq km (66 %) is categorised as forests.

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