Difficult to control blaze in absence of requisite equipment: DFO
Mysterious serial fires have engulfed dozens of acres of dense forest cover for the past two months at multiple places in north Kashmir’s Kehmil, Zangli and Langate forest divisions, damaging region's precious ecology and threatening people living of the foothills of the these forests.
Reports said flames emerging from burning bushes have damaged scores of famed deodar and fir trees besides the medicinal herbs at Karnah, Handwara, Bangus Nowgam forests, 30th, 31st, and 32nd forest compartments at Divar Anderbough, 19th forest compartment at Sogam Lolab, Andernaad Gagal forests, Zab Khurhama Lolab forests, Cheepora Lolab forests, Rangath forests of Hayhama belt, and Redi Panzgam forest belt behind Border Security Force Battle School.
Reports also said that a large blooming forest cover has burnt into ashes at Langate, Wadar Rajwar, Sogam Lolab, Zab Khurhama and Kandi areas of Kupwara district during the past two months.
Eye witnesses talking about Rangath Hayhama forests told Rising Kashmir that fire appeared in the local forest on Sunday evening and within hours engulfed a square kilometer area. They said that the residents immediately informed the forest officials but their “half-hearted measures couldn’t contain the fires”.
The situation is not different in other areas of the district where the residents said that winds during night and the absence of comprehensive controlling measures were fast spreading fire to the adjacent stretches. Drying up of water sources due to prolonged dry spell has aggravated the problem.
“A couple of forest employees today came to the area to control the fire but in the absence of needed machinery and appropriate manpower, the officials failed to control the raging fires”, Nasrullah Andrabi of Sogam said and added that the winds were helping the fires to spread to other areas.
Although the exact cause of fire is not known to the authorities concerned, the forest department in coordination with local populace has launched its “symbolic operation” to douse raging fires empty hands.
A senior forest official wishing anonymity detailing about the potential causes of the fire said that the people involved with the trade and cultivation of Cannabis and Morchella Esculenta (Gucci), deliberately set the forests on fire. This he said is done to cultivate Cannabis and Morchella Esculenta on the burnt down forest patches very next year. The officer said that the intentions of the miscreants to encroach the forestland at some places also can’t be rules out.
He added that the security forces roaming in the forests to check the insurgent movements occasionally burn bushes to stay warm. He continued and said they (security forces) at times leave cigarette butts and match sticks. He said that both the cases remain a major cause for rampant fires during the dry spells.
Confirming the reports, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Kamraj Forest Division Mehboob Ali, confirmed the reports of fires in many forest compartments of Kamraj Forest Division. He said they (the department) have been on toes since past one and a half months to control the mysterious forest fires.
The DFO regretted that in the absence of fire fighting equipments they were not able to control the fires.
Refuting the alleged reports of fires for encroachment or cannabis cultivation, the DFO said that they see the ongoing fires at tough terrains and at altitudes, which otherwise can’t be encroached or used for cannabis cultivation.
He said that the ongoing serial fires in the district are all mysterious.
Lauding the cooperation of residents, he said that they keep on informing the forest officials regarding any such incidents and voluntarily help them to control the raging fires.
He said that they have controlled most of the fires with the help of local populace by digging rings around the affected areas.