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Showers help in fighting Uttarakhand forest fires

Fire rages at Bohrakot in the Ramgarh tehsil of Nainital district. — Photo: Diwan Mehra

Fire rages at Bohrakot in the Ramgarh tehsil of Nainital district. — Photo: Diwan Mehra  

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Rain on Tuesday brought partial relief to Uttarakhand, where operations to put out forest fires continue on a war footing.

Rain on Tuesday brought partial relief to Uttarakhand, where operations to put out forest fires continue on a war footing.

Showers were experienced in the higher reaches of Rudraprayag, including Kedarnath and Gaurikund. Parts of Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts also received light rain. “Light to moderate rain will be experienced throughout the State by Wednesday morning. This will continue for 72 hours,” Director of the Dehradun Meteorological Centre Bikram Singh said.

The fire entered the Corbett Tiger Reserve but officials said it had been contained.

“Like other forests, fire incidents have been occurring in the Corbett Tiger Reserve too, but all fires are being controlled and no damage has been caused to the wildlife,” Director of Corbett Tiger Reserve Samir Sinha said.

Additional Chief Secretary S. Ramaswami said 11,160 personnel had been deputed to control the fires.

The NDRF teams continued operations, along with the IAF choppers.

By Tuesday, 1,591 fires had been recorded, covering 3,466 hectares. On Tuesday, 121 fresh fires broke out.

Unsung heroes of Uttarakhand

Since February this year, four persons have died in the forest fires in Uttarakhand, says the forest department. While it recognises the efforts of a police constable who got hit by a stone while extinguishing a fire and died, it refuses to acknowledge a couple of villagers who also died while protecting the forests.

Rajendra Sen from Bohrakot village and Jai Singh Bohra from Talla Okhalkanda village died on April 28 while trying to put out the fire in the forests of their villages.

Death due to fall

At 68, Sen was passionate to save his oak forests even though they belonged to the forest department. On the night of April 28, as he trod towards a fire few metres from him, Sen fell from a height of about 200 feet and succumbed to head injuries. The forest department, however, treated it as an accident — nothing to do with the fire. “I do not understand what an old man was doing in the forest,” a senior official said to The Hindu, asking not to be named.

However, for the villagers, Sen was a man who loved his forests. “He felt personally responsible for them. He also inspired other villagers to protect these oak forests, which are a lifeline for this region,” Diwan Mehra, Sen’s friend, said.

Though the villagers from Bohrakot in Ramgarh tehsil made phone calls to the forest department on that night, the personnel reached the village only in the morning. Similarly, 72-year-old Bohra, who continued to be the village headman for the 45th year in a row, headed to the nursery he had nurtured for years when he heard of the fire.

Succumbed to burns

“My father went to the reserve forest to save the trees in the nursery. However, his spectacles slipped into the fire and he fell while picking up his spectacles,” his son Amar said. Bohra was taken to the hospital but he succumbed to burns.

Sen and Bohra died in their efforts to put out forest fires, but their deaths remain unrecognised by the forest officials.

According to the latest report, four deaths have occurred in connection with the forest fires — and the list of victims does not include the two. Which means their families will receive no compensation.



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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 9:02:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/showers-help-in-fighting-uttarakhand-forest-fires/article8552452.ece

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