Brig. K.G. Behl (Retd.)
Vice President, Indology Foundation
Though fires in forests during summer are not very uncommon but the fires which have spread at many places in the State have scared people as measures being taken to curb those are not that effective and need more latest equipment to control those. The main source of fire during this period are dry leaves which are found all over and get burnt even on slightest spark from any source like burnt stump of biri /cigarette, spark from chulha / stove or sometimes even leaves when they collide with each other producing spark of fire when atmospheric temperatures are very high. It has been reported that some of the miscreants even start fire which spreads fast into the jungle and gets out of their control. The way the fire has spread this time simultaneously at many places it reminds of the fires of 1995 and 2016. During 1995, 6000 hectares of forests were reduced into ashes and in 2016 during which 2074 incidents took place destroying 4433 hectares of forest jungle. This year so far 1536 incidents have been reported destroying 3444 hectares of jungle area. It includes 792 hectares in Garhwal area, 424 acres in Kumaon and 261 in Shivalik Range. Though the month of June is yet to start which as per the meteorological department is likely to be more hot. As such one feels scared as to what proportion the fire may take as Govt. and other agencies are finding it difficult to control even now.
Inspite of the fact that forest fires occur every year but sufficient preventive actions are not taken to control these fires. Surprisingly the fires not only take place in dense jungle but are quite close to the villages which bear the brunt every time and at times it is reported that the villagers themselves cause those in order to get compensations. These days there are plenty of gazettes are available which are used for extinguishing fires from ground as well as from air. Helicopter are engaged to douse such fires. Moreover it appears that some of the locations get fires every year but no arrangement is made to nip those in bud till they engulf big areas.
The forest department is mainly responsible to control such fires and take preventive actions. These fire not only destroy the forest cover but create a havoc for the animals and another flora and fauna. In such situation they run here and there for shelter and in the process create terror for the people around as they need something to eat and water to drink. No wonder they attack crops and human habitants. Though their aim is not to kill or destroy but in the process they becomes helpless. Forest department should also provide alternate shelter to the animals while protecting human beings.
The forest fire also destroys fruit and other trees which takes time to grow those and as such besides losing fruits etc. the villagers lose their earnings. It becomes difficult to control fires when the storms too make them worse and the fires spread quickly. It gives a horrible scene to watch at night the fire spreading in the jungle. At times it appears as if some street lights have been put in that area but when one goes closer the realization comes of the real disaster. Let us hope that some pre-monsoon rains come shortly to douse these fires and give some relief to the people and the Govt. They say prevention is better than cure and efforts should be made to take preventive measures so that such fires do not destroy forest areas.