Updated May 6th, 2024 at 16:04 IST

Nainital and Beyond: A Look at India's Forest Fires Through Time

The recent forest fires in Nainital certainly evoke memories of some of the worst wildfires India has experienced in recent years. Take a look:-

Reported by: Digital Desk
Nainital Forest Fire | Image:PTI
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Nainital Forest Fire: Uttarakhand's Nainital is currently reeling under severe forest fire, touted as the worst in years. In the span of just 24 hours, reports indicate that Nainital has experienced a staggering 31 incidents of forest fires. Since Friday, approximately 34 acres of precious forest land have been engulfed by the relentless blaze. Prompting a swift response, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army have been deployed to aid in extinguishing the flames ravaging Nainital. Collaborative efforts between central and state agencies are also underway to battle the inferno, which has even encroached upon Nainital's High Court Colony by Saturday.

From November 1 last year till now, a total of 575 incidents of forest fire have been reported in the state, affecting 689.89 hectares of forest area and costing the state than Rs 14 lakh. Anil Joshi, a resident of the area and assistant registrar of the High Court said, "The fire has engulfed an old and vacant house located near The Pines. It has not caused any damage to High Court Colony but it has reached dangerously close to the buildings. Efforts are being made to control the fire since evening." In view of the possibility of the fire reaching the sensitive areas of the Indian Army located near the Pines, efforts are being made to extinguish the fire as soon as possible.

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CM Swings Into Action

Acknowledging the enormity of the challenge posed by the forest fires, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said,"This is a big fire." Furthermore, Dhami assured that efforts are underway to address all essential needs and that assistance has been requested from the Army. He also announced plans for a high-level meeting to evaluate the situation comprehensively.   

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The district administration has banned boating in Naini Lake in view of the blaze. Nainital Divisional Forest Officer Chandrashekhar Joshi said, "We have deployed 40 Manora Range personnel and two forest rangers to extinguish the fire." According to the daily bulletin issued by the Forest Department here, 26 incidents of forest fire occurred in the state's Kumaon region in the last 24 hours, while five incidents occurred in Garhwal region, where 33.34 hectares of forest area was affected.

 

India Not New to Forest Fires

The recent forest fires in Nainital certainly evoke memories of some of the worst wildfires India has experienced in recent years. Take a look:-

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Uttarakhand Forest Fire:  One of the most devastating forest fire incidents in recent memory occurred in Uttarakhand in 2016. These fires spread across vast areas of forest land, particularly affecting regions like Nainital, Almora, Pauri, and Chamoli. The fires were exacerbated by dry weather conditions and strong winds, leading to extensive damage to flora, fauna, and property.

Bandipur Tiger Reserve Fire (Karnataka): The wildfires in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka in 2019 were particularly severe, threatening not only the flora and fauna but also human settlements nearby. These incidents serve as stark reminders of the challenges posed by forest fires and the importance of effective prevention and management strategies to mitigate their impact.

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Arunachal Forest Fires: Arunachal has also faced its share of wildfires, with significant cases occurring in recent years. In February 2024, a wildfire broke out in the West Kameng district, adding to the list of forest fire incidents in the northeastern state. Moreover, in 2023, Arunachal Pradesh recorded over 95 forest fires, highlighting the persistent threat in the region.

Odisha Forest Fires: Odisha stands out as a hotspot for forest fires, with a significant number of incidents reported annually. In March 2023 alone, the state witnessed 96 major fires in its jungles, indicating the scale of the problem. From 2022 to 2023, Odisha recorded a staggering 871 large forest fires, emphasizing the urgent need for robust fire management measures in the state.

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Goa Forest Fires: Even in tourist destinations like Goa, forest fires have wreaked havoc on the natural landscape. In 2023, the state witnessed one of its worst forest fires, with 348 hectares of land burnt to the ground, resulting in substantial losses of flora and fauna. These incidents underscore the importance of proactive measures to prevent and control forest fires, particularly in ecologically sensitive areas like Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Goa.

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Published April 27th, 2024 at 16:02 IST