The state of Uttarakhand has witnessed a surge in forest fires this year, with over 107 hectares of forest cover affected since January. According to data from the state's forest department, the Garhwal region was the worst affected, with 40.68 hectares of forest land gutted by wildfires, followed by the Kumaon region with 35.55 hectares. In admin wildlife, a category of protected forest area, 31.02 hectares of forest cover was affected.
The wildfires have led to a monetary loss of over Rs 4,80,000, with Garhwal reporting a loss of Rs 3.66 lakh, Kumaon over Rs 1 lakh, and Rs 14,670 from admin wildlife. The data revealed that there were 40 incidents of wildfires in both Garhwal and Kumaon regions this year, while 'admin wildlife' reported over a dozen forest fires in the same period.
The surge in forest fires was attributed to hot weather during February, which led to the dry leaves on the ground catching fire easily. Although forest fires can be triggered by any spark, no casualties were reported among villagers or forest department staffers. The wildfires also did not hurt livestock, as per the forest department data.
The state has been witnessing massive fires in alternate years recently, with 2,981 incidents of fires recorded in 2019, 4,480 in 2018, 1,228 in 2017, 4,433 in 2016, and 701 in 2015. Forest fires in Uttarakhand usually begin in mid-February and last until the onset of the monsoon in mid-June.
Forest fires can have a significant impact on the environment, including loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and air pollution. The state's forest department has been taking measures to prevent forest fires, including creating fire lines and awareness campaigns among villagers. The department has also deployed personnel to keep a check on forest fires and respond quickly to any incidents.