Uttarakhand forest fire: Timber mafia, climate change behind the blaze, say reports

The forest fire in Uttarakhand has killed seven persons and destroyed 2,269 hectares of forested land.

Even as latest satellite imagery of Uttarakhand has reported that the forest fire has gone out in over 70 percent of the affected areas, there is still a lot of debate over how the fire began in the first place.

A section of people on social media have alleged that the land and timber mafias are responsible for the forest fire. In a post on the Facebook page 'Uttarakhand Burning Silently', it was alleged that minors are used by the mafia to light these fires because they cannot be punished.

He further said that the land and timber mafia gain the most by burning forests because it becomes easier to get environment clearance for a project on an area which has lost its flora and fauna due to fire.

Moreover, the trees burnt in the process "fetch crores in revenue".

On the other hand, another Facebook user said that the worsening climate conditions in Uttarakhand only added to the man-made damage caused to the forest. It suggested that the Uttarakhand forest fire was caused by deforestation, rising temperatures, lack of water and reduced snowfall in Uttarakhand.

There was also another post allegedly showing children being sent to set fire to the forests.

A report in The Wire said that it was the combined effect of both man-made and natural causes which had led to the forest fire. While the report also talked about the timber mafia illegally setting fire in the Himalayan foothills to fell trees, it said that another major reason for the large scale of the disaster was that rising heat, this year's dry winter and lack of rainfall made it "impossible" to contain the fire.

The report also said that the people diverting water sources for tourism was causing more dryness in the soil. Pine trees, which are highly flammable, were also being planted in large numbers in the state.

Another report in The Times of India said that there was an alleged nexus between the timber mafia and the Forest Development Corporation, the body with the authority to sell trees which are dead or have dried up via auction.

To control the damage caused by the destructive Uttarakhand fire, a squad of over 135 personnel of this special force are deployed in Uttarakhand as part of multiple firefighting teams to combat the raging fire in the jungles of Uttarakhand.

NDRF teams have spread out in 13 affected areas of three districts of Pauri Garhwal, Almora and Chamoli with fire fighting equipment to tackle the massive blaze.

"Our teams are working in 13 sectors in coordination with the officials and personnel of the state fire and forest department. The teams have been instructed to adopt the conventional method of cutting the fire line and containing the fire.

"We are using fire-beaters and green bushes to cut the fire from spreading. About 135 personnel as part of multiple teams are working in Uttarakhand at present," NDRF DG OP Singh had said.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: May 02, 2016 13:35 PM

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