Raging fires consume North Indian mountain forests
North Indian mountain forests are in danger of being wiped out by wildfires that have raged for weeks.
The fires, which have killed at least seven people, have triggered panic, with the government issuing travel warnings for the foot of the Himalaya Mountains, a favourite destination for summer tourists. Villagers have been urged to be vigilant to avoid becoming victims of the fires.
Thick, dense smoke is evidence of the immense fires spreading on several fronts. Some blazes cover as much land as 23 kilometres (8 miles) in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh states.
“We are struggling to bring the situation under control,” said Bhanu Prasad Gupta, Uttarakhand State Forest Officer.
For months, Indian fire fighters have been up against the deadly fires without success, causing widespread environmental damage and prompting the government to send military choppers to drop water over the fires consuming the pine forests.
Villagers have joined the military’s efforts, invading the jungle to help put out the embers after choppers have drenched the forests from above.
However, thick smoke and the tough, remote mountainous terrain hamper the efforts of at least 9000 fire brigades, the military and forest rangers. Although villagers are on high alert, none has had to be evacuated. At least 84 fire monitoring centres have been established to receive and report new fires and issue alerts.
Ujjawal Kishan, an official from the forest department, acknowledges that fires on the foothills of the Himalaya are not uncommon. This year’s fires, beginning in February after a dry winter, and later spiralling out of control due to soaring summer temperatures, have been unusual and intense.
Two tiger reserves are among the affected national treasures, with the tourism sector being the hardest hit, following summer travel cancellations by tourists to the Himalayan attractions.
Published by Green Jobs Online - 4th May 2016