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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Over 6,000 personnel deployed to douse Uttarakhand forest fire

Over 6,000 personnel deployed to douse Uttarakhand forest fire

3 NDRF companies, along with the State Disaster Response Force and the Indian Air Force are working to put out the fire

A forest on fire in Pauri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand. Photo: Arun Sharma/Hindustan TimesPremium
A forest on fire in Pauri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand.
Photo: Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times

New Delhi: The Union government said on Sunday over 6,000 personnel from various state and central agencies are working to put out the raging forest fire in Uttarakhand. The government also said it is working on a new system of issuing pre-fire alerts to prevent such incidents.

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said the Prime Minister’s Office, home ministry and defence ministry are helping with the firefighting. “The fire this year can be compared with that in the year 2012 when 1,300 places and more than 2,000 hectare area were involved. Our top officials are at the spot guiding local authorities. Over 6,000 people have been deployed to control the fire," Javadekar told reporters.

In the last one month, there have been 1,233 cases of fire covering around 1,900 hectares of forests in Uttarakhand, according to environment ministry. Chamoli, Pauri, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital have been the worst-hit.

Three companies of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are working to put out the fire, apart from personnel from the State Disaster Response Force. The Indian Air Force has deployed MI-17 helicopters.

“Uttarakhand is essentially a pine and sal forest. We will study the reasons behind it (the fire) and we will come up with a countrywide action plan. Also in summer, forest fires usually happen but this year, their number has increased. We are trying to find a solution," he added.

In answer to a query about social media reports of some young men deliberately causing the fire, Javadekar said the government will definitely take cognizance of it, but its first priority is to stop the fire.

According to environment ministry data, a total of 18,451 incidents of forest fires were reported from across the country in 2013, compared with 19,054 in 2014 and 15,937 in 2015. This year has seen a jump in such instances, with at least 20,667 fires already reported as on 21 April.

The minister further said the ministry has been issuing fire alerts for the last two years and is now starting a system of issuing pre-fire alerts.

“Today, we have started a trial run of pre-fire alerts, which are very important to avoid fire. It’s a new technology developed by our forest institute, wherein alerts will be issued to authorities about fire-prone forest areas. After the trial run, it will be started permanently wherein SMSs will be sent to concerned departments for immediate action," he said.

According to Ravi Chopra, an environmentalist and a former member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), high temperatures with no atmospheric moisture were the major reason for this year’s fires.

“This year, the major cause is the high temperature and the lack of rainfall. There have been speculation about it being a man-made fire but there is no proof as such," Chopra said.

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Updated: 02 May 2016, 12:54 AM IST
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