Uttarakhand has witnessed at least 45 forest fires in the last 24 hours alone. The state that has reported at least 1,000 forest fire in the last six months has reached out to the Centre for helicopters and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). The worst-hit districts in the state have been Nainital, Almora, Tehri and Pauri, according to government officials among the 964 locations where fires have broken out. An emergency meeting was called by Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat with the state officials to assess the situation and make arrangements to assure help in relief work.
Amid the fires raging high across a vast stretch of forest in the state, a small clip showing a state minister trying to douse a tiny part of the fire has been going viral on the internet. In the clip, Uttarakhand Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat is seen trying to put out the forest fire in Pauri district on Monday using a bush. The video was shared by a journalist on Twitter.
Hours after being filmed dousing forest fire with a bush and subsequently trolled over the social media for his act, Uttarakhand Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat justified his move by saying that he wanted to inspire others.
According to reports, since the formation of Uttarakhand back in 2000, the state has lost 44,000 hectares of forest owing to wildfires. It witnessed the biggest wildfire incidents in 2016 and 2018 when altogether 8,900 hectares of forest land was reduced to ashes.
Experts believe incidents of wildfires could increase in the months to come due to rise in the average temperature after a prolonged dry winter spell this year.
Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat last week instructed top forest officials to make arrangements for the helicopters to douse the wildfires. However, the instructions have been caught in the red tape. Principal Chief Conservator (fire) Mann Singh told News18 they are negotiating with the private helicopter companies and “this may take some time”.
He asserted wildfires have increased in the last 3-4 days “as wind blowing with a velocity of 150 kilometres per hour”.
Even as officials are busy giving excuses, the social activists have reacted strongly to the ‘non-activeness’ of top guns of the forest department.
“This is a major catastrophe shrouded in silence by the senior-most officials. I would like to see the top five IFS officials coming together and making a detailed presentation on what is going on” said Anoop Nautiyal.