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Forest Fire Raging near Nainital, Hurt Tourism

Forest Fire Raging near Nainital, Hurt Tourism

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NEW DELHI, Apr 27: A massive forest fire is sweeping through the dense foliage of the mountains of Uttarakhand for the last 60 hours gutting over 108 hectare of forest land in the State.

With the fire reaching the vicinity of an Air Force Station near the Nanda range, Indian Air Force activated its aerial fire-fighting capability and deployed a Mi-17 V5 helicopter to douse the fire through Bambi Bucket Operations. The Indian Army too has deployed two columns for fire-fighting in Kumaon, on the request of the forest department.

The District Forest Officer (DFO) Nainital, Chandra Shekhar Joshi said the forest fire was first reported earlier this week in the Nanda range, and later spread downwards reaching the IAF establishment.

“The IAF has sought permission from the district administration to use the water from Bhimtal lake, using Bambi bucket. They are dousing the fire near their establishment while rest of the fire is being controlled by the forest department,” Mr Joshi said. He added that the fire was around 10 kms away from the vicinity of the city and all efforts were being undertaken to control the same.

Meanwhile, the residents of Nainital and nearby areas are complaining of thick blanket of smog engulfing the region due to the leaping flames of the forest fire. In a disappointment to tourists who are reaching to Nainital in peak summer season, boating in the Naini lake has been stopped because of the blaze.

Expressing concern over the raging forest fire, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said the government was working hard to control it and help from the Army has also been sought.

“The forest fires are a challenge for us. This is a big fire. We are working for all the essential needs. We have asked for help from the Army… I am going to conduct a meeting in Haldwani today. We have conducted a meeting in Dehradun also regarding this. We will try to control the fire as soon as possible,” Mr Dhami said adding that the respective district administrations have been asked to ensure action was taken against those trying to ignite fire in hills.

In a similar action, the forest fire protection team formed under the leadership of Divisional Forest Officer, Rudraprayag caught a person named Naresh Bhatt from Tadiyal village, Tehsil-Jakholi. He was trying to set fire in the forests to pave a way for grazing of goats, a communique from the district administration said. In another arrest, Hemant Singh and Bhagwati Lal were caught red-handed while setting fire in the Dangwal village of North Jakholi. The accused were booked under the Indian Forest Act 1927 and were sent to jail.

According to the Uttarakhand’s Forest Department, 26 incidents of forest fire occurred in the State’s Kumaon region in the last 24 hours, while five incidents occurred in Garhwal region, where 33.34 hectares of forest area was affected. Two columns of the Indian Army have also been deployed in Kumaon to fight the fires.

While this is an alarming incident, and has placed Uttarakhand State officials on high alert, it is, unfortunately, not an isolated one. From November 1, 2023 till now, 575 incidents of forest fire, affecting 689.89 hectares of forest area and costing the State exchequer more than Rs 14 lakh have been reported in Uttarakhand.

(Manas Dasgupta)



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