Wildfires: Uttarakhand to review economic loss methodology, activists raise questions

Express News Service
DEHRADUN: Questions are being raised by activists on the methodology used by the forest department to ascertain economic loss caused by forest fires in Uttarakhand. 

Consider this: The damages in the ongoing fire season are pegged at Rs 42.56 lakh for 1529.28 hectares gutted in 1,116 incidents.

The average estimate of Rs 2,904 per hectare for compensation is too less, asserted activists.

“One hectare area amounts to 10000 square meters. How can losses in such a large area be calculated with an average of Rs 2,904? The method is faulty and outdated. This needs to change. This is not only injustice to the people of Uttarakhand but also to the country,” said Anoop Nautiyal from Social Development for Communities Foundation.

For pine forests, the rate is fixed at Rs 3,000 per hectare, Rs 2,000 per hectare for sal forests and Rs 1,000 per hectare for mixed forests.

Similarly, Rs 20 is fixed for loss of a plant which is one-year-old, Rs 22.40 for two-year-old, Rs 24.96 for three-year-old, Rs 28 for tress over four year and Rs 32 for those above five years of age.

Meanwhile, IAF helicopters began their firefighting operations in Uttarakhand on Monday, conducting several sorties over the burning forests in the Garhwal region to spray water over the raging flames and extinguish them.

A total of 85 more forest fire incidents occurred in the state over the last 24 hours, according to data of the forest department.

An IAF helicopter with a bucket carrying around 5,000 litres of water from the Tehri lake doused the flaming forests of Gaja, Pokhri and Quili in the district, Narendra Nagar Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) and the nodal officer of the operation, DS Meena, said.

Two sorties were made, first to conduct a recce of the affected areas in Tehri district, followed by two more to pour 10,000 litres of water over active spots in the Narendra Nagar forest division, he said.

The operation was stopped later in the afternoon as the weather was not conducive, officials said, adding that it will be resumed on Tuesday.

Sorties will also be conducted by the Indian Air Force helicopters on Tuesday to pour water over the burning forests of Thauldhar block of the district, Tehri DFO Koko Rose said.

Boating activities in the Tehri lake were kept suspended during the day so that the IAF helicopters can collect water from the lake in an uninterrupted way.

Another IAF helicopter stationed at Haldwani for the purpose could not make sorties due to low visibility caused by a thick cover of smoke emanating from the smouldering forests, Kumaon DFO Tejaswini Patil Dhakate said.

According to the data, the last 24 hours have seen 85 fresh forest fire incidents in which 165.45 hectares of forests have been destroyed.

By Sunday, there were 983 forest fire incidents in the state in which 1,292 hectares of forests had been gutted.

Nainital, Almora, Tehri and Pauri districts have been the worst hit.

A total of 12,000 forest department personnel are deployed to control the fires.

(With PTI Inputs)