Himachal’s Ecology Under Pressure; Around 31 Forest Fires per Day in April-June this Year

Environmental News from India:

  • Himachal Pradesh recorded 2,763 incidents of forest fires this year from April 1 to June 30, which is the highest figure recorded by the state’s Forest Protection and Fire Control division, since 2007.
  • While three forest officers lost their lives in efforts to control the fires, over 23,000 hectares of forest area were affected, including thousands of hectares of new plantations.
  • Senior forest officers state that dry weather spells and human negligence or wilful destruction could be the reasons for the fires. The local people see the incidents as an outcome of large-scale development projects that are tampering with the local ecology.

Roshan Lal, 66, is livid. He is yet to come to terms with the damage caused to a forest near his village, that caught fire on June 12.

Lal, an agriculturist from Jangi village in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, told Mongabay-India that he had not seen a forest fire of this scale before. The fire spread over three kilometers and engulfed hundreds of trees and green cover. It took around three days to extinguish the fire but by then, over 2,000 bighas (161 hectares) of forest land had been affected by the fire.

Reginald Royston, District Forest Officer (DFO), Kinnaur, informed Mongabay-India that the report about the exact damage due to the forest fire was still being compiled. However, on the ground, the destruction is quite visible. The fire has affected the ecologically and economically significant deodar and blue pine trees valued for their timber, he said.

“Hundreds of chilgoza pine trees, which produce edible nuts and are a major source of livelihood for residents of Jangi village, were destroyed,” said Lal.  The affected area, was also home to Himalayan tahr and the black bear, according to Jangi residents. They suspect human tampering as the reason for the fire.

However, DFO Reginald Royston said since the fire occurred on high mountain slopes where there is no human habitation, the department was not able to reach any conclusion whether the fire incident was accidental or a deliberate attempt. “But one possible reason is the prolonged dry spell in the area, which massively reduced the moisture level of the forest, thereby making them more prone to acute fire,” Royston clarified.

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Source: Mongabay

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