Army, air force out to quell forest fires in Uttarakhand

Dehradun : With scanty rains and a prolonged dry spell, coupled with temperatures above average forest fires in this small hill state have reached menacing proportions. Besides the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), the army and air force have also been asked to assist the forest department and fire fighting staff in dousing the forest fires.

Forest fires in Uttarakhand_1

With four lives already lost and over a dozen having received serious burn injuries there have been almost a thousand cases of forest fires reported from the Garhwal and Kumaon divisions of the state. According to reports almost 900 hectares of forests have been reduced to cinders in Garhwal division alone, while in the Kumaon division about 515 hectares has been adversely affected.

While the army is at standby, an 11-member team of the IAF reached by an MI-17. In Kumaon diovision water is being airlifted from the Bhimtal lake by choppers and dropped in badly affected forest areas of the region. The Air Force team is currently deployed at Pauri area of Garhwal division, while another team and chopper have been deployed in the Kumaon division of the state.

Holidays of all forest department staff have been cancelled seeing the large scale of the forest fires and they have been asked to report for duty immediately. Forest department sources said that almost all the fires in the state seem to have been man made but they are the worst in the last four years that the state has witnessed.

In almost all the regions the fires have engulfed huge tracts of forest and are being helped by strong winds. The PMO has expressed concern at the forest fires and has asked the Governor (the state is currently under President’s rule) to send a detailed report. Home minister Rajnath Singh was also in touch with the Governor and has assured him of all central help to deal with forest fires.

What is causing concern to the forest officials is that forest fires have been reported from some of the outskirts of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. Though the forest staff has got to work immediately on these fires and has doused them, but there are fears that they could spread again and cause damage to the flora and fauna in the tiger reserve.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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