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Raging fire

The massive forest fire in Uttarakhand is showing no signs of abating, despite the intervention of the Army and Indian Air Force. As the state’s forests burned through the weekend, military personnel were roped into firefighting operations. Three companies of the National Disaster Force were also deployed on Saturday to join the thousands of police personnel along with NGOs and volunteers. According to latest reports, at least six people have died and seven have been injured because of the fires, which have spread over more than 1890 hectares. What’s worse, over 1500 villages are at risk. But the damage done to Mother Nature is incalculable. For citizens of the state, the forest department website will have information on possible fire points that could emerge over the next seven days. Experts have contended that a hot and dry summer, allied with the absence of pre-monsoon showers and poor forest management have resulted in the raging fires in Uttarakhand. Although forest fires are common in the state during summer, the scale of it, this time, has caught authorities off-guard. Even though authorities knew of the drought and the onset of a hot summer, they were clearly in no position to deal with the horror witnessed. The lack of winter rains that help keep moisture in the soil, the subsequent hot summer and poor forest management played their part in aggravating the scale of forest fires. Experts have pointed to the state government’s controversial decision to chop down acres of chir pine trees, as an example of poor forest management. The state government had reasoned that its decision to cut down chir pine trees would enhance its ability to control forest fires since the pine needles burn quickly and cause the fire to spread faster within forests. But experts contend that although the trees were cleared, the highly combustible needles were left behind, causing fires to spread faster within forests. Fire-prone chir pine trees make up about 16 percent of Uttarakhand’s forest, according to a report in Scroll.in. Its decision to chop down chir pine trees, however, is only one example of poor forest management practices. The costs will only be calculated once the fire subsides.
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