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IAF helicopters join fight to douse Uttarakhand forest fires

Photo: Virender Singh Negi   | Photo Credit: Virender Singh Negi -

As Uttarakhand continued to fight the inferno across 2,269 hectares of forests on Sunday, two IAF helicopters joined the operations, ferrying water through the Garhwal and the Kumaon hills and dumping it in areas inaccessible to forest personnel.

Villages in many districts kept awake at night to try and protect their houses and cattle from the creeping blaze. Wild animals, including snakes, leopards, monkeys and barking deer, moved closer to human habitations, as they were pushed out of the forests by fire and smoke.

Hoping to cut off the spread of fire, the IAF helicopters stationed near Nainital and Srinagar drew water from the Bhimtal lake and a river in Srinagar using 3,500-litre ‘Bambi Buckets’. However, smoke and fog delayed the air operation.

Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Shatrughna Singh said: “There were delays, but the choppers will continue to work on Monday.”

Third chopper to join

A third Mi-17 helicopter will reach Nainital on Monday. “Two will function in areas near Nainital and one near Srinagar,” Mr. Singh said.

The Forest Department’s data show that till Sunday 1,082 incidents of forest fire had covered 2,269 hectares, and preliminary losses were put at Rs. 22 lakh.

However, the blaze showed a declining trend on Sunday. Mr. Singh told The Hindu that on April 27, there were 140 incidents, rising to 338 on April 28 and 477 on April 29. But on Saturday, they were down to 219 and on Sunday, to 112. Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the situation and held discussions with the Chief Secretary.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Centre was taking the forest fires very seriously. The government would study the causes and prepare an action plan.

Bird nests go up in flames

With fires raging in the Uttarakhand forests, the wildlife is either perishing or entering human habitations, increasing the possibility of man-animal conflicts.

This is the nesting period for birds and many migratory birds also visit the State during this season for breeding.

Anup Sah, a wildlife photographer who is also a member of the State’s Wildlife Advisory Board, said, “This is the breeding season for local birds who migrate from the Terai region. Their eggs and nests are getting burnt in the fire.”

The Cheer Pheasant, which is declared ‘vulnerable’ and is listed in IUCN Red Data Book, is also under threat.

“Grassy slopes are the habitats for the Cheer Pheasant. However, with the slopes on fire, the vulnerable bird is under threat,” Mr. Sah said.

The fires are driving wildlife out of the forests. More snakes, leopards, and monkeys are being spotted near villages. With springs and other traditional water sources drying up, animals have started moving into human habitations.

Water tanks

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Rajendra Kumar said:

“For the past few days we have been supplying water tanks to Rajaji National Park so that the animals there don’t go thirsty.

“Near Corbett National Park too we are keeping fire lines wet so that the fire doesn’t spread.”

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 6:30:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/iaf-chopper-sprinkles-water-to-douse-ukhand-forest-fires/article8544123.ece

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