Fire in the hills

The terrible inferno in Uttarakhand is yet another warning that the world has not yet begun to come to terms with the risks from climate change


The hills are alive with the sound of crackling fires. The terrible inferno in Uttarakhand is yet another warning that the world has not yet begun to come to terms with the risks from climate change. Experts say that the raging forest fire is the result of inadequate rains, dry weather and extreme heat. Each of these is linked to climate change.

India is not geared to deal with a growing incidence of forest fires in recent years. Six thousand people are said to be at work right now to douse the fire. Such emergency responses are welcome. But that should not make us forget deeper problems in the way forests are managed. The forest departments have too few people at work. Funding is also inadequate. The powerful timber mafias have a vested interest in weak forest departments.

Damage to the Himalayan ecosystem could have consequences for much of north India. That is why the Uttarakhand fire—and climate change—should be taken seriously.