State

HC SEEKS EXPLANATION FROM STATE ON FOREST FIRES

Thursday, 31 May 2018 | PNS | Nainital — Taking serious cognisance of forest fires raging across the State and considering the media reports being published on this issue, the High Court of Uttarakhand has directed the State Government to clarify the situation by 2 PM on Thursday. Taking suo motto cognisance of the forest fires, the high court division bench of chief justice KM Joseph and justice Sharad Kumar Sharma has sought an explanation from the state government while also directing it to inform the court about the measures taken by the Government to control the forest fires. Admitting a public interest litigation in the matter of protection of forest area, forest wealth and wildlife in the State of Uttarakhand, the high court has set the next date of hearing for the case on May 31. It is pertinent to mention here that even during 2016 when the issue of severe forest fires in Uttarakhand had reached the high court. At that time, the high court had taken serious cognisance of the issue and had issued directions to the State authorities. The court had directed the State Government to deploy the personnel of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). At that time, the high court had also stated that if a forest fire is not brought under control in 24 hours, action should be taken against the divisional forest officer. Similarly, action was directed against the conservator of forest concerned in case of forest fire not being brought under control in 48 hours and against the senior officers concerned in case of forest fire not being brought under control in 72 hours. However, the supreme court had later put a stay on this. This year too, the forest fires in Uttarakhand have assumed alarming proportions with the authorities so far seeming to have achieved limited success in tackling these.

4,223 HECTARES AFFECTED BY 1965 FOREST FIRE INCIDENTS

According to statistics provided by the Forest Department, as on Wednesday a total area of 4223 hectares had been affected by 1965 incidents of forest fires in different parts of the state. The maximum incidents- 680 had been reported from Pauri district. According to the official data, the forest fire incidents reported so far have caused a damage evaluated at Rs 81,63,381. At least four persons have been wounded so far apart from as yet unconfirmed number of wildlife injuries and deaths due to the forest fires. About 2772 local persons and 1087 vehicles have been involved in fighting the forest fires in the state, according to officials. It is pertinent to mention here that the Forest Department had declared an alert in the state, cancelling leaves of its field staff and stepped up activity but various factors have led to continuation in incidents of forest fires in the State.

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