At least five people including three women and a child died in a raging forest fire in the state of Uttarakhand. A women along with her six year old child had been burnt alive in Nainital. About 1900 hectares of forest land has been destroyed in the fire. Center deployed three teams of National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) in the region to control the fire.
Uttarakhand governor KK Paul had doubled the number of state personnel deployed in the region. There are 200o state personnel working in the disaster region currently. NDRF has deployed 135 personnel in total after the governor requested for help from the center.
Dry weather,high temperatures and windy conditions made the conditions worse as the fire spreads in an uncontrollable way. Fire spread over 13 districts of Uttarakhand. Pauri Garhwal, Nainital, Pithoragarh, Bageshwar and Chamoli are the worst affected districts among them.
Reserve forest areas including 198 hectares of Jim Corbett National Park, 70 hectares of Rajaji Tiger Reserve and 60 hectares of Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary are gutted in the fire.
Forest fires were reported in tourist resorts of Bijrani, Sardpuli, Palen, Dhikala, Kalagarh, Maidavan, Jhirna and Sona Nadi of the reserves but there has been no wildlife casualty so far,said forest officials.
There are some social media posts alleging some timber mafia involvement behind the forest fire. A facebook page named Uttarakhand Burning Silently published a post with these allegations. The following testimony is posted in the name of one Rahul Sharma who is a brid watcher according to the writer :
“Villagers are paid to set fire to forests and once it goes out the unburned parts are strangely reset till it is all burnt.We caught three young minors setting fires to a birding area in Sattal, and we asked them why . They said their father had told them to set fire to the forest.
We put out the fire with water from the lake, and the next day it was again set ablaze.Today we saw the dead trees are being marked and cut for sale.”
The face book page which has more than 2000 followers alleges that the trees that die in the fire and as a result of the fires are cut for timber and sold for hundreds of crores. The claims to be created by the local residents of the fire affected region demands immediate involvement of the authorities to control the fire.