Experts raise questions, say ‘how safe is flora and fauna’
A massive forest fire that broke out at Dachigam forests on Sunday evening has raised eyebrows about the safety of its flora and fauna.
Dachigam is an abode for a variety of species of animals and birds, many of which are endangered and rare.
Rare animals inside the park include: Kashmir Stag (Hangul), Leopard, Snow Leopard, White-bellied Musk Deer, Himalayan Black Bear, Himalayan Brown Bear, the Otter, Yellow-throated Marten, Himalayan Weasel, Jackal, Long-tailed Marmot, Jungle-cat, Leopard Cat and Himalayan Fox etc.
Despite home to some rare wildlife, the sanctuary has witnessed many fire incidents in the past which caused huge destruction to its flora and fauna.
In 2002, forest fire engulfed Dachigam Park which turned a huge green area to ashes.
In 2007, a major fire broke out at six different areas inside the National Park.
While no loss was reported to the wild animals but a major portion of the vegetation was wiped out due to the fire.
It was followed by a fire of similar kind in the year 2010 when the wildlife departments had to take assistance from the Fire Service and Emergency Department to douse the fire.
In 2012 and 2015, few portions of Dachigam Park again were affected by the forest fires—which led to huge damage to the habitation of wild animals.
According to the official data, in 2016, there were 214 incidents of forest fire and the number jumped to 775 in 2017.
While the repeated forest fires have raised concern over the safety of rare animals inside the national park, the wildlife Department says that “forest fires are as old as forests.”
Chief Conservator Forests, Kashmir, Farooq Gilani said that mostly the forest fires occur naturally. “Forest fires are as old as forests.”
Gilani said the Department of Forest has made a project of forest fire and prevention control comprising of short term and long term measures.
“In short term measures, we have a forest control rooms, fire lines inside the forests and equipment for the staff for fire fighting. Fire lines are very important,” he said.
He said, like other countries, we do not have facilities like choppers and other equipments.
He said, but the department has introduced the forest fire app in the forest department. “It is basically an application and with the help of it, we report a forest fire. After reporting, the senior officers get the information and mobilize the staff to different spots.”
He said the dry spell, rising temperature and conifer needles scattered on the ground which catches fire easily are the main causes of the forest fires in the state. “It can also be man-made and due to the negligence of human beings who throw cigarettes in the forests.”
He said, as of now, there were no major forest fires. We are prepared to control it.
Commenting on the Sunday’s fire incident, Wildlife Warden, Dachigam Park, Altaf Hussain said that the fire has damaged the grass mainly in the three areas of the park. “Fire picked up very quickly and had spread to the upper reaches. Fire services could not help. But our officials went on the spot and controlled the fire. There were no injuries to wild animals,” he said.
He said that they had apprehensions that if the fire would spread to the next area, it would damage the Hangul habitation permanently.
“But we sent around 20 officials in the upper reaches, they have done a wonderful job by dousing the flames and preventing the Hangul habitation and other areas,” he said.
The department has lodged an FIR into the police station and assigned two officers to inquire about the cause of the massive fire in the national park.
Eyewitnesses have told the department that it might be man-made. “So, we have to inquire it.”
“We suspect the fire which had simultaneously spread to three areas including the upper slope might be some mischievous acts. It can be man-made. We have started the inquiry,” he said.
However, the Regional Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, Rashid Naqash said that there was no loss of habitat or any injury to the wild animals.
"We controlled the fire and everything is fine now. Drog Nallah and Reshwoder Nallah areas were affected. But the timely action of the department stopped the fire," he said.